FURNITURE HISTORY

AMERICAN FURNITURE HISTORY TIMELINE

 

Woodworking is a time honored tradition with an expansive history that has become the bedrock for modern day woodworking; however, understanding that history can sometimes be a challenge.

At one point in my woodworking career, I came across a magazine article that outlined how to build a Queen Anne Connecticut lowboy (similar to the one pictured right). There are several things that come to mind when I see a piece of furniture like this; however, two questions would always arise:

  • Where does the name Queen Anne Connecticut lowboy come from?
  • What makes this piece fit that description?

When I first started researching the origins of a Queen Anne Connecticut lowboy, I quickly discovered that furniture history is based on ‘time periods’ that were often categorized by the ruling monarch of the time (i.e. William and Mary, Queen Anne) or by a furniture maker who had a major influence on the period (i.e. Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite, Thomas Sheraton). These names were simply used to define a style.

American furniture within these time periods is often distinguished further by geographical location. Furniture makers in the early american cities (Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Portsmouth, Newport, and Charleston) built their furniture based on British and French tradition; however, they each had their own style and characteristics that made them unique.

Putting the history of furniture into a timeline helps us understand this complex topic from a visual perspective. As we look at furniture history timelines it is important to understand that they differ based on the country of origin. When America gained independence from England during the 18th century there was a divergence in furniture styles. Even though they share many of the same time period labels (i.e. William and Mary, Queen Anne, etc.) the furniture history timeline in America differs from that of England.

Our goal with this project is to help put furniture history into perspective while showing the design elements that categorize a particular piece of furniture. This will be an on-going project as we continue to conduct more research.

 

REFERENCES:

If you are looking for a more in-depth explanation and understanding of American period furniture, check out these books:

 

American Furniture of the 18th Century: History, Technique & Structure
As a furniture maker, this is by far my favorite period furniture book. Why? Because the 18th century is the most prolific time period in furniture history and Jeffery Greene (the author and accomplished period furniture maker) puts it all into perspective. The coolest thing about this book (aside from furthering my understanding of American period furniture) is the level of detail into the construction methods used by the 18th century cabinet maker. Many of these construction methods have stood the test of time and often find their way into todays contemporary furniture.

The book is broken into three parts:

  • Part One: The Origins and Evolution of American Furniture Styles
  • Part Two: The Methods and Materials of the 18th Century Cabinet Maker
  • Part Three: Example of Style and Structure

A well rounded book worthy of a place in any woodworkers library.


 

Early American Furniture: A Guide to Who, When, and Where
When we look at 18th century American furniture in terms of the time periods (i.e. William and Mary, Queen Anne, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Sheraton) we are really only looking at the broad strokes of American furniture history. When we look at 18th century furniture by geographical regions we really need to get into the details.

A Queen Anne table built in Connecticut has subtle differences in style compared to one built in Pennsylvania. Understanding these differences can be challenging; however, this book does an excellent job in providing you the details to decipher the origin of furniture from this time period.