New York Furniture and Its Diverse Beginnings

This high chest, though English in form, incorporated both Dutch and French design elements, exemplifying the significant impact that cultural diversity had on furniture craftsmanship in New York. Samuel Clement, high chest of drawers, red gum, red cedar, tulip-poplar, sumac, brass, Flushing, Long Island, N.Y., 1726. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont 1957.0512

This high chest, though English in form, incorporated both Dutch and French design elements, exemplifying the significant impact that cultural diversity had on furniture craftsmanship in New York. Samuel Clement, high chest of drawers, red gum, red cedar, tulip-poplar, sumac, brass, Flushing, Long Island, N.Y., 1726. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont 1957.0512

Settled by the Dutch and claimed by the English, New York, from the start, was “a Babel of peoples—Norwegians, Germans, Italians, Jews, Africans . . . Walloons, Bohemians, Munsees, Montauks, Mohawks, and many others,” writes author Russell Shorto. This early diversity and the blending of so many cultural influences inspired a rich variety and legacy in New York cabinetmaking evident in Winterthur Museum’s holdings of furniture made in the Empire State between 1650 and 1850. Opening in the Winterthur Galleries on March 1, the exhibition Cultivating Style in a Multiethnic World: New York Furniture, 1650–1850, features a selection of objects from the collection, including works by renowned cabinetmakers Duncan Phyfe and Charles-Honoré Lannuier—objects that will tell the story of the state’s development from modest beginnings to the epicenter of furniture production in the United States by the 1850s.

Also forthcoming is the 2015 Sewell C. Biggs Winterthur Furniture Forum: From New Netherland to Empire State: New York Furniture, March 4–7, 2015, which will feature curators, conservators, historians, and decorative arts consultants who will explore how the furniture of New York reflected the colony’s early cultural diversity and subsequent mercantile and industrial development.

Introducing the contextual basis of the related above-mentioned exhibition is Russell Shorto, author of the national bestseller, The Island at the Center of the World. In The Wendy A. Cooper Furniture Forum Lecture: “Island at the Center of the World,” Shorto will share the story of New Netherlands and give a glimpse into an early America that many of us were not taught in history class.

Other speakers in the terrific lineup at this year’s Furniture Forum will share how the furniture and interiors of New York demonstrate this rich diversity with elaborate Dutch-inspired turnings, solid English construction methods, French sculptural carving, and Germanic painted decoration.

Here is a sneak-peek at three objects featured in the exhibition and at the forum, where Winterthur curators and conservators will give share insights and in-depth studies. You can consider each of them more closely while they are on display in the Galleries.

Kas, red oak, white oak, chestnut, white pine; walnut, red cedar, sumac inlay. Merrick, Long Island, New York, 1650–1700. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont 1952.0049

Kas, red oak, white oak, chestnut, white pine; walnut, red cedar, sumac inlay. Merrick, Long Island, New York, 1650–1700. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont 1952.0049

Henry Francis du Pont acquired a kas from the Merrick, Long Island, estate of Dr. George Mott Hewlett in 1952. This piece was taken apart and reassembled when it arrived at Winterthur and has been in the Oyster Bay Room here since it arrived. For the first time since its installation 63 years ago, in preparation for this exhibition, it has been disassembled for study and conservation, allowing the Winterthur staff to examine the back and the underside more closely.

As evidence of the multicultural influences in New York at this time, the kas, which is much like a modern-day armoire, was a form popular in the Netherlands, and its Dutch colonies, as well as in Germany; however, in England and the English colonies, it was never popular.

David Coutant/Coutong (1748–1829,) side chair, maple, ash, rush. New York, New York or New Rochelle, 1700–1800. Gift of the Wunsch Americana Foundation, Inc., 1952.0049

David Coutant/Coutong (1748–1829,) side chair, maple, ash, rush. New York, New York or New Rochelle, 1700–1800. Gift of the Wunsch Americana Foundation, Inc., 1952.0049

An example of a form commonly referred to as the “Hudson River Valley chair,” this side chair was made by David Coutant (Coutong), who most likely apprenticed with his father, Huguenot chairmaker Jacob Coutant (1722–1794). While these chairs were first made in New York City, where Coutant worked, and in the Hudson Valley, they reflect a hybrid aesthetic combining English and Dutch elements. This particular form became popular in the 1740s, was copied by chairmakers in Long Island and on the Connecticut coast (where they were called “York chairs”), and remained in production until the 1830s.

Charles-Honoré Lannuier (1779–1819), work table, mahogany; mahogany, maple, rosewood veneer; white pine, tulip-poplar, gilded brass, die-stamped brass borders. New York, New York, probably 1817. Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Francis du Pont. 1960.0006.

Charles-Honoré Lannuier (1779–1819), work table, mahogany; mahogany, maple, rosewood veneer; white pine, tulip-poplar, gilded brass, die-stamped brass borders. New York, New York, probably 1817. Museum purchase with funds provided by Henry Francis du Pont. 1960.0006.

This work table was made by French ébéniste (cabinetmaker) Charles-Honoré Lannuier, who trained in Paris and specialized in expensive, fashion-forward veneered furniture. It shows evidence of yet another cultural influence in New York furniture. Lannuier emphasized his French background in his marketing to reinforce the perception of sophistication, and his high-quality workmanship earned him a place among New York’s fashionable cabinetmakers, attracting clients as far as the American South and the Caribbean.

Join us March 4–7, 2015, at the 2015 Sewell C. Biggs Winterthur Furniture Forum: From New Netherland to Empire State: New York Furniture, for the opportunity to learn more about each of these and more objects as well as optional tours and workshops available during the conference. Call 800.448.3883 or visit to register or learn more.

Cultivating Style in a Multiethnic World: New York Furniture, 1640–1860 was organized by Joshua W. Lane, Lois F. and Henry S. McNeil Curator of Furniture at Winterthur. A book of the same name, also by Lane, will be available in the Winterthur Bookstore as of March 1.

If you are interested in learning more about Russell Shorto’s book, The Island at the Center of the World, which The New York Times proclaimed would “permanently alter the way we regard our collective past,” read the interview with Russell Shorto on the Random House website or visit Shorto’s website.

And look for more information to come on our website on the Winterthur exhibition, Cultivating Style in a Multiethnic World: New York Furniture, 1640–1860.

Post by Kim Collison, Department of Museum Affairs

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French Fashions on Paper: Advertising the Coiffure in 18th-Century Paris

1778 fashion plate from Galerie des Modes depicting a grander style of dress and a tall pouf with laurel leaves symbolizing a victory.

1778 fashion plate from Galerie des Modes depicting a grander style of dress and a tall pouf with laurel leaves symbolizing a victory.

Among the numerous items in the library’s Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys is a gorgeously hand-painted French set of paper cards from the late 1780s not intended as a children’s plaything but rather as an advertisement for coiffures – the French word for both hairstyles and headdresses. The set consists of four drawings of heads framed in medallions, reminiscent of portrait miniatures, and twelve different fashion changes, all delicately rendered in watercolor. Included is a diminutive slipcase measuring 3 3/8” high x 2 ¾” wide that housed the set. The fashion cards show the creations of Denis-Antoine of Paris, as stated on the partial label reading: “Se vend dans la même/A Paris/Chez-Denis-Antoin/rue S. Jacques, vis-à-vis/à S. Ambroise,” which roughly translates to: “Sells in the same/in Paris/at the shop of Denis-Antoine/rue St. Jacques, opposite/St. Ambroise.”


Collection 121, 73×319.2, Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.

Although particulars of Denis-Antoine are unknown, the label provides us with his store’s location in the left bank’s 5th arrondissement just south of the Ile de la Cité, home to the city’s luxury fashion trade. By the 1780s, Paris, while only the third largest city in Europe with a population of approximately 650,000, was nevertheless its undisputed fashion capital. Its reigning fashion icon, Queen Marie Antoinette, with her ever-changing styles featured in numerous prints, inspired clothing trends at a dizzying pace. To keep up with Parisians’ demand to follow these trends, an extensive network of clothing and textile trades and services spread throughout the city, with the area around the Palais Royal and the busy thoroughfares of Rue Saint-Denis and Rue Saint-Honoré just across the Seine as its nexus. Most nobility gravitated to the Rue Saint-Honoré, where the queen’s personal marchande de modes (fashion merchant), Rose Bertin operated her store. Denis-Antoine’s shop may not have been located in the center of the fashion district or connected to the highest ranks of aristocracy, but the styles on the cards were clearly intended for clientele that could afford to spend both time and money on their coiffures.

Collection 121, 73x319.2, Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.

Collection 121, 73×319.2, Maxine Waldron Collection of Children’s Books and Paper Toys.

And what hairstyles they were! Elaborate though they seem, the 1780s coiffures were toned-down versions of the towering poufs of the previous decade. Sometimes reaching three feet high, those poufs were built on foundations made of wire, cloth, and gauze augmented with horse hair and animal hair and could stay undisturbed for weeks. The most outrageous poufs were wildly accessorized with windmills, ships, and even entire garden scenes, some with sociopolitical meanings, some merely fanciful. When Marie Antoinette began to lose her hair during her second pregnancy in 1781, her hairstyles became less complicated as did her costumes reflecting her more informal style. Concurrently, more casual English fashions became popular aided by cheaper importation of their fabrics and France’s increasingly precarious economic situation. Lighter fabrics and less ornamentation helped to characterize this fad known as the l’Anglaise style. Even though Denis-Antoine was not selling clothing, the cards show this more modest attire with pastel-colored gowns simply decorated with gauze handkerchiefs, ruffles, and bows around the necks and bodices. No longer ridiculously tall, the hairstyles on the cards were still teased somewhat high with curls framing the face and topped with millinery creations adorned with feathers, bows, flowers, beads, and ribbons. A notable difference is unpowdered hair or wigs, a reaction to the many poor harvests and wheat shortages during the decade.


Also on trend was Denis-Antoine’s use of paper to advertise his services. In previous centuries dolls of all sizes circulated through the royal courts of Europe to announce the latest styles to a select few and later to shoppers in store windows. With increasingly cheaper production costs, paper became the preferred medium by the late 1700s for disseminating the latest fashions to wider audiences, through fashion plates printed singly, in series, or in magazines. The newly created fashion press kicked into high gear with several periodicals chock full of fashion plates offering guidance to Parisians in dressing in vogue. Considered the first fashion magazine, Galerie des Modes et des Costumes Français was published from 1778 to 1787 by print sellers Esnauts and Rapilly on the Rue St. Jacques. The Cabinet des Modes, the next popular and influential magazine, quickly followed under a series of titles between 1785 and 1794.

Engraving of Marie Antoinette dressed in informal attire in the mid-1780s. Reminiscent of Vigée Le Brun’s 1783 painting. 1967.2376.

Engraving of Marie Antoinette dressed in informal attire in the mid-1780s. Reminiscent of Vigée Le Brun’s 1783 painting. 1967.2376.

Much remains unknown about Denis-Antoine, his status within the city’s fashion hierarchy, and his fate in the troublesome times ahead. Did he survive the French Revolution, flee Paris to thrive elsewhere (as did Rose Bertin who later opened a shop for émigrés in London), or switch professions? Did Denis-Antoine design the cards himself or hire an artist who also created fashion plates for the magazine Galerie des Modes, published on the same street as his shop? Despite the mysteries, this extremely rare set of fashion plates is not only a true work of art but also an important window into fashion history during the waning days of the ancient régime.



Post by Jeanne Solensky, Librarian, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera

Further reading:

Madeliene Delpierre, translated by Caroline Beamish, Dress in France in the Eighteenth Century. Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 1997.

Caroline Weber, Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution. Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2006.

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The Beauty of It All! Antiques Take Center Stage at the Winter Antiques Show

Needlework picture (Appliqué quilt center), Sarah Furman Warner Williams, New York, 1800–1820. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1959.1497

Needlework picture (Appliqué quilt center), Sarah Furman Warner Williams, New York, 1800–1820. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1959.1497



The 61st Annual Winter Antiques Show kicked off on January 23. The show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City showcases 73 renowned exhibitors specializing in Americana, English, European, and Asian fine and decorative arts, from antiquity through the 1960s.

Not to miss a moment of the action, Winterthur curators as well as members of the Henry Francis du Pont Collectors Circle descended on the opening of the show. Winterthur Senior Curator of Ceramics and Glass Leslie Grigsby, recounted, “As always, there was quite a crowd assembled, to view beautiful objects, from ancient marble sculptures to art deco architectural elements to modern folk art.”

Pastel (Portait), William Joesph Williams, New York, 1781. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1957.1143

Pastel (Portait), William Joesph Williams, New York, 1781. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1957.1143

Linda Eaton, John L. & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections & Senior Curator of Textiles at Winterthur, observed many extraordinary pieces at the show. One such object, an appliqué panel, caught her attention because of the connection to Winterthur. The panel was once the center of a pieced bedcover made by Sarah Furman Warner Williams. It has the same imagery as another one made by her that is in the Winterthur collection. Sarah Furman Warner Williams is known to have made two full appliqué bedcovers—one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the other at the Henry Ford Museum (sadly it was damaged in a fire in 1970)—as well as the two panels in the Winterthur collection. Winterthur also has a pastel portrait of Sarah Furman Warner Williams when she was a young girl, about ten years old.

“…the appliquéd work made by Sarah Furman Warner Williams are of a quality rarely seen in early nineteenth-century American textiles. The woman who made them possessed a keenly original imagination and was a craftsperson of the highest order.” Amelia Peck: American Quilts & Coverlets in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Needlework picture (Appliqué quilt center), Sarah Furman Warner Williams, New York, 1800–1820. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1959.1496

Needlework picture (Appliqué quilt center), Sarah Furman Warner Williams, New York, 1800–1820.                         Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1959.1496


Eaton also noted the beautiful objects on display in this year’s Winter Antiques Show loan exhibition, Ahead of the Curve: The Newark Museum, 1909–2015. The Newark Museum’s collection is vast and diverse, on par with the museum’s mission to be at the forefront of collecting and exhibiting. Ulysses Grant Dietz, chief curator and curator of Decorative Arts, and graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, commented to Visual Arts Today:

“The Newark Museum was one of the first to acquire an oil painting by Ernest Lawson [1910], the first to exhibit folk art [1930], and the first to give a one-man show to a living American artist, Max Weberin [1913].”

The 2015 Winter Antiques Show runs through February 1. For more information, visit

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department

Amelia Peck, American Quilts & Coverlets in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Dutton Studio Books, New York, 1990.

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Letters from Jackie: A Personal Piece of Camelot

Jacqueline Kennedy, H F du Pont, and chauffeur Dana Taylor

Jacqueline Kennedy, H. F. du Pont, and chauffeur Dana Taylor

Last week dozens of handwritten letters by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sold at auction in Palm Beach, Florida, for a total of $28,400. The letters were personal correspondence and thank you notes by the former First Lady to her interior designer, Richard Keith Langham, and to Bill Hamilton, then the design director at Carolina Herrera.

The auction comprised 20 lots of personal letters as well as photographs. One item in particular fetched the highest bid, $4,575—a book about Kennedy’s restoration of the White House, which she signed for Langham. “What fun it would have been to work with you then,” she wrote in an accompanying note on her signature blue stationery.

Jacqueline Kennedy (seated, left) and H. F. du Pont (standing fourth from right), along with members of the Paintings Committee of the Fine Arts Committee, December 1961.

Jacqueline Kennedy (seated, left) and H. F. du Pont (standing fourth from right), along with members of the Paintings Committee of the Fine Arts Committee, December 1961.

One man who was fortunate to work with Mrs. Kennedy on the White House restoration was Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont. In 1961, Kennedy invited du Pont to chair the Fine Arts Committee, a group of twelve influential design leaders brought together to inform and lend expertise to her efforts to refurbish the White House’s state rooms in the authentic furnishings and character of its founders. The First Lady felt that du Pont, as a well-connected collector of Americana, could help acquire antiques from donors and add more sophistication to the project. Once word of the project spread throughout the country, letters poured into du Pont with offers to donate or sell prized possessions to the White House.

IMG_1562_JK TelegramOn May 8, 1961, Kennedy visited Winterthur for the first time for lunch and a tour. Accompanied by a small party, she toured the estate and grounds with du Pont and then–museum curator John Sweeney, who was appointed by du Pont to the Advisory Committee formed to help counsel the Fine Arts Committee. Part of du Pont’s drive to bring Kennedy to Winterthur was to have her experience first hand his affection for American decorative arts and furniture.

“I have a feeling that her real interest is in French things,” Sweeney recalled du Pont saying. “She doesn’t believe that you can have a really swell house with American furniture, and I want her to see that you can.”

The next day, Mr. and Mrs. du Pont received a handwritten note from Mrs. Kennedy on her blue stationery, in which she shared her thoughts on her visit:

“…how could anyone ever express the impression it [the museum and gardens] leaves—All I can say is I will never recover from it—or forget one tiny detail—I just can’t believe that it was possible for anyone to ever do such a thing—Mr. du Pont you now have me in such a state of awe and reverence I may never be able to write you a letter again!”

Layout 1That was a bit of an understatement on the part of the First Lady. Over the course of the next two and a half years, du Pont and Kennedy exchanged hundreds of letters, which are now housed in the Winterthur Archives.

Du Pont was flattered and charmed to be working with Mrs. Kennedy, a sentiment she shared. “It is marvelous that this country can produce someone like the astronaut but I think it is much more awesome to have someone like you,” she wrote in the same letter following her first visit to Winterthur.

IMG_1545_HF LetterRuth Lord, du Pont’s youngest daughter, wrote in her book Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur: A Daughter’s Portrait, “My father’s relationship with the First Lady remained harmonious until its abrupt ending with the assassination. They were a good team and had much in common: good taste, standards of excellence, a respect for privacy and confidentiality, and a dislike of publicity.”

Du Pont’s involvement in the restoration project initiated a long-standing relationship between Winterthur and the White House. Both du Pont and Sweeney continued to work with the White House during the Johnson years, and Winterthur staff and graduates from the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture have served on the White House Fine Arts Committee, the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, and the White House curatorial staff.

IMG_1565_JK LetterPost by Hilary Seitz, Marketing Communications Department

For more information on the Palm Beach Modern Auction,

Ruth Lord, Henry F. du Pont and Winterthur: A Daughter’s Portrait. Forward by R. W. B. Lewis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

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Craft & Commerce in the Early Delaware River Valley

The Delaware River flows 419 miles south from its source in the Catskill Mountains of New York to the Delaware Bay, just north of Cape May, New Jersey. A 1757 map by Thomas Kitchin illustrates the interconnectedness of the landscape that 17thand 18th-century settlers to the area experienced. Abundant natural resources and navigable rivers made the colony of West New Jersey (founded 1676) a destination for many. The waterways were an integral part of New Jersey’s successful timber trade and provided the means for its craftsman to be mobile within, and between, colonies in the Delaware River Valley.

Flanking the cartouche on Kitchin’s map are tall trees with high canopies, an allusion to the abundant stands of hard pine, Atlantic white cedar, oak, and chestnut that were early transatlantic commodities. A 1698 tract describing the conditions of the colony cited “a great plenty of working timber, as oaks, ash, chestnuts, pine, cedar, walnut, poplar, fir, and masts for ships, with pitch and pine resin, of great use and much benefit.” In particular, cedar’s low density and rot-resistance were beneficial for maritime uses and also made it a favored wood in house carpentry for structural timbers and roof shingles.¹

Thomas Kitchin, A MAP OF/ MARYLAND/ with the/ DELAWARE/ COUNTIES/ and the Southern Part of/ NEW JERSEY/ &c, 1757. Winterthur Museum purchase 1982.309

Thomas Kitchin, A MAP OF/ MARYLAND/ with the/ DELAWARE/ COUNTIES/ and the Southern Part of/ NEW JERSEY/
&c, 1757. Winterthur Museum purchase 1982.309

Collectors of early furniture made in the Delaware River Valley recognize the pale, straw color cedar boards used as drawer bottoms in case pieces made from the late 17th century onward. Gabriel Thomas’s 1698 account of West New Jersey enumerates cedars among the species exported to Philadelphia: “Timber-River, alias Glocester River, which hath its name (also) from the great quantity of curious Timber, which they send in great float to Philadelphia, . . . as Oaks, Pines, Chestnut, Ash, and Cedars.” Cedar transported to Philadelphia was then reexported westward to Chester County and appears in the 1737 inventory of cabinetmaker Joseph Hibberd, which lists “some split ceder for dray or bottomes,” contradicting the belief that only Philadelphia cabinetmakers used cedar for such purposes.²

Inland waterways as well as social and religious networks help account for the movements of two early Quaker craftsmen—William Beake(s) III and Seth Pancoast, a joiner and cabinetmaker—who sought economic prosperity on both sides of the Delaware River.

William Beake III, chest of drawers, walnut, ca. 1715. Rocky Hill Collection

William Beake III, chest of drawers, walnut, ca. 1715. Rocky Hill Collection

William Beake III (1696–1761), born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to the son of a yeoman and member of the Society of Friends, trained in Philadelphia under joiner William Till, who died in 1711, the year Beake’s apprenticeship likely concluded. The joined chest of drawers signed by Beake is one of three nearly identical chests from his hand, made possibly during his time in Philadelphia or after he relocated to New Jersey. By 1748 Beake was a permanent resident of Monmouth County and was among a list of the colony’s freeholders. In his will, recorded in Upper Freehold in 1761, he identified himself as a joiner, indicating continued activity in the trade, unlike so many craftsmen who became yeoman and retired from their physically demanding craft earlier in life.³

Seth Pancoast, high chest of drawers, figured maple, 1766. Winterthur Museum, promised gift of John J. Snyder, Jr. L2010.1042.1

Seth Pancoast, high chest of drawers, figured maple, 1766. Winterthur
Museum, promised gift of John J. Snyder, Jr. L2010.1042.1

Seth Pancoast (b. 1718), the cabinetmaker whose signed high chest of drawers dates to 1766 and to whom a companion dressing table also in figured maple is attributed, came from a family of carpenters. His grandfather, John (Panckhurst), emigrated from Northampton, England, to Mansfield Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, in 1680. Upon his death, John willed his “carpentures tools” to sons William (Seth’s father) and Joseph.4 It is possible that Seth apprenticed in Mansfield or  Burlington or in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with his eldest brother, William, who had married Mary Copeland in 1730 under the oversight of the Chester Friends Meeting. Seth no doubt was successful in the Marple Township area (now Delaware County), where he settled after marrying Esther Coppock in Chester County in 1741. His refined pieces certainly are the work of a practiced hand.

The definitive reasons for the movements of these Delaware River Valley artisans are not known, but it is probable that economic promise drove them while their social and religious networks made their relocation possible. Their accomplished work helps illustrate the skill of craftsmen practicing their trade outside the urban center of Philadelphia and reminds us that hundreds more did so successfully—their furniture and stories still waiting to be discovered.

Post by Jackie Killian, a 2014 graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, is the Sewell C. Biggs Curatorial Fellow at Winterthur.

1 Gabriel Thomas, “An Historical and Geographical Account of the Province and Country of West-New-Jersey in America, 1698,” in Original Narratives of Early American History: Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey, and Delaware, 1630–1707, ed. Albert Cook Myers (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1912), 349. For more on the early use of cedar shingles, see Theodore Maisch, “Episodes in the Lumber Industry,” Southern Lumberman 136, no. 1760 (July 15, 1929): 64–65.

2 Thomas, “Historical Account,” 350. Joseph Hibberd, 1737, Inventory #609, Chester County Archives. My thanks to Lisa Minardi for providing a copy of this document.

3 I am grateful to Christopher Storb for sharing his knowledge of Beake’s life and apprenticeship. The three Beake chests are in private hands, including one in the collection of the Dietrich American Foundation.

4 For more on Seth Pancoast and the Pancoast family, see Wendy A. Cooper and Lisa Minardi, Paint, Pattern & People: Furniture of Southeastern Pennsylvania, 1725–1850 (Winterthur, Del.: Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum, 2011), 122–23; and Bennett S. Pancoast, The Pancoast Family in America (Woodbury, N.J.: Gloucester County Historical Society, 1981), 1–27.

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Presidential Porcelain from Washington to Winterthur

Dinnerware with emblem of the Society of the Cincinnati. Jingdezhen, China; about 1784. Hard paste porcelain. 1963.700.28 and .57 A-C

Dinnerware with emblem of the Society of the Cincinnati. Jingdezhen, China; about 1784. Hard paste porcelain. 1963.700.28 and .57 A-C

The Winterthur collection is generally recognized as the premier collection of American decorative arts in the world. Winterthur founder, Henry Francis du Pont was a great collector of Americana. Throughout his life du Pont amassed an extraordinary collection of American furniture and decorative arts, more specifically, objects used and made in America between 1630 and 1860.

On this day in history, January 7, 1789, George Washington was elected the first president of the United States of America. The Winterthur collection includes many pieces formerly owned by Washington.

In May 1785, a 302-piece dinner, tea, and breakfast service was brought to New York on the Empress of China. The Empress of China represented major growth as the first American ship to conduct trade directly with China. The service set was not custom ordered by Washington but purchased from the New York firm, Constable, Rucker, & Co in July 1786 for $150.00, a reduction from the original price. Washington used the service in the presidential mansions in New York and Philadelphia and Mount Vernon.

1996.0004.013The service features a fashionable blue and white border pattern of whimsical flowers, butterflies, and other Chinese motifs. The border was named after Thomas Fitzhugh, director of the Honourable East India Company, who had originally ordered a service with a similar border in 1780; hence, the style’s name became synonymous with his. In addition to the blue and white border, each piece of the Washington service features an emblem showing Fame personified as a winged female blowing a trumpet. In her hand she holds the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati, a bald eagle with a shield on its chest.

The Society of the Cincinnati is the nation’s oldest patriotic organization, founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army and their French counterparts who served together in the American Revolution. It is named after Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, a Roman hero who served Rome in its time of need and then relinquished power back to the elected Roman Senate. Washington was often compared to a modern day Cincinnatus and served as the first president of the Society until his death in 1799.

1963.0700.042How the pieces came to be owned by Henry Francis du Pont is an interesting tale passed down through generations. Upon Washington’s death, the service was passed on by Martha Washington to her grandson, George Washington Parke Custis and used at Arlington House. The American government confiscated Arlington House along with the service during the Civil War. Following the Civil War, President William McKinley released the possessions to Mary Custis Lee, the daughter of Mary Anna Randolph Custis and Robert E. Lee. In 1928, du Pont purchased sixty pieces from the descendents of Mary Custis Lee.

Many pieces from the service can be viewed at the Society of the Cincinnati museum, Mount Vernon, and in the Winterthur collection, where they are on display in China Hall on the 5th floor of the museum. The Winterthur collection houses more pieces of the George Washington Society of the Cincinnati porcelain than Mount Vernon!

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing & Communications Department, Winterthur

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Watercolor Drawings from Paris

In the early 1800s, an artist or a group of artists created at least four volumes of watercolor catalogues depicting personal goods that were for sale in Paris. Two of the volumes, labeled numbers one and four on their spines, are now in the Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera in the Winterthur Library. They contain approximately 1,500 drawings.

64x68.2.001Personal goods shown include gloves, shoes, hats, clothes brushes, toothbrushes, combs, garters, fireplace bellows, pistols, powder puffs, Argand lamps, jewelry, mirrors, and the list goes on.

Until recently, the dates of the catalogues were open to conjecture. Some people believed they originated from around 1830, following the style of a commode that is depicted in volume one, while others judged them earlier, a Napoleonic-era creation. Evidence suggests they were made circa 1806 to 1813. During those years, Paris city directories included the name of the stationer, LeBeuf, whose trade labels are pasted inside the front covers of the volumes and who bound the books; a jotting in a margin of volume four recorded the delivery of a certain walking stick in 1813; the volume’s paper and watercolor paint are consistent with the 1806–13 time period; drawings for both the Republican and Gregorian calendars are shown (the changeover was in 1806); and a reference to royalty on one of the stationer’s labels was snipped out, which would have been in step with Napoleonic-era sympathies.

coverAs Frank H. Sommer, then head of libraries at Winterthur, wrote in 1964 when Winterthur acquired the catalogues, “The two volumes constitute a pictorial encyclopedia of middle-class decorative arts of the Napoleonic period and as works of art, they display the great skills of their maker or makers.”

The catalogues may have been carried by peddlers in and around Paris to advertise what they had for sale, but more likely they were used by a consortium of merchants who had banded together on the very short rue Bourg L’Abbé, a Paris street where stationer LeBeuf ran his business, to ply their wares. On that street, just about every product illustrated in the watercolor volumes was sold. Located in the sixth arrondissement—or section—of Paris, rue Bourg L’Abbé was at the center of Parisian craftsmanship. A 19th-century observer wrote, “it is here that Paris goods are manufactured—fancy turnery, buttons, brushes, canes, umbrellas, jewelry, plated work, lace, and a hundred thousand marvels of ingenuity known and sought after in every part of the world.”

35Although 19th-century watercolor catalogues are few and far between, at least three others exist. One is at the Decorative Arts Museum in Paris. Originally from 1811 or so and published in facsimile in 1993 as Objets d’Usage & de Goût, it contains drawings of many of the same products as the Winterthur catalogues. The other two are at Colonial Williamsburg and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

If there were originally four volumes, and if Winterthur has two of them, where are the others, numbers two and three? If anyone sees them—green alum-tawed covers together with morocco spine labels—please let me know.


Post by E. Richard McKinstry, Winterthur Library Director and Andrew W. Mellon Senior Librarian

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Anonymous Artisans: Textile Designers & Their Sources

1968_0360_001Until the promotion of textiles designed by well-known artists came to the fore in the early twentieth century, designers for printed textiles had, in general, remained anonymous. We can document little about the majority of those designers who worked in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century calico printing industry, but we can contextualize their experiences from the fragmentary information available for some who were more famous.

By the middle of the 1700s, the role of artists and designers was fluid, competitive, and rapidly growing as a boom in the middle-class consumer market resulted in high demand for quality design for a wide variety of goods. This elevated status of design resulted in a huge increase in the number of instruction manuals and pattern books that were available to artisans. Painters, engravers, publishers, print sellers, calico printers, and potters all jumped on the bandwagon, demanding high-quality designs depicting fashionable botanical specimens, patriotic events, theatrical successes, and country scenes that resonated with the public.

fig. 1.NK 9900


To fulfill that need, London publishers like Robert Sayer promoted and popularized designs that were relevant to a variety of artisans. One of his most widely known treatises, The Ladies Amusement; or, Whole Art of Japanning Made Easy, was published in 1760, 1762, and 1769. The volume highlights the work of Frenchman Jean Pillement, whose designs can be found on ceramics, furniture, silver, tapestries, and wallpaper in addition to printed cottons. Similarly, Peter Casteels, who was well known in London as a painter of flowers and exotic birds, was the source of designs for a wide range of products through his involvement with the publication of the iconic Twelve Months of Flowers. Those prints were copied extensively and were even sent to India to serve as patterns for palampores imported back into London.

Layout 1

The earliest printed cottons and linens, called “indiennes” in France, were consciously designed in imitation of popular imports from India. Those fantasy floral designs have been revived on a regular basis ever since, but real flowers were also depicted on printed textiles, often copied or adapted from botanical illustrations and publications on native plants of the period. For example, Flora Londinensis by William Curtis, published in 1777, was the source for numerous copperplate designs printed at Bromley Hall. Calico printer Joseph Talwin, a partner in the firm, was a subscriber to the first edition of that publication.

fig. 4. 1958.7.2Many designs with flowers, birds, and other animals were also taken from books published specifically for pattern drawers (an early name for designers), such as Robert Sayer’s New Book of Birds (1765). This, in turn, was indebted to Francis Barlow’s engravings published from the early 1650s to 1694, generally known as “Barlow’s Birds.” These are regarded as the first British ornithological prints—lively and accurately rendered. The Winterthur collection contains numerous Barlow-style birds among the printed textiles. Sayer also sold Various Birds and Beasts Drawn from the Life by Francis Barlow and included Barlow prints in his own mid eighteenth century publications, all of which found their way onto textiles printed in the second half of the century. “It was really only with the publication of images by John Audubon [Birds of America] and others in the second quarter of the nineteenth century that Barlow’s birds were supplanted.”1

fig. 5. 1959.84.59No matter the design source, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, quality and cost were at the forefront of discussions by those advocating copyright protection. William Kilburn, one of the leading supporters of acts passed in 1787 and 1794 alleged that he lost £1,000 per year because his popular patterns were being reproduced by others. Lancashire printers were usually blamed for such transgressions. It was claimed that they saved costs by using cheaper materials and copying only those designs that were known to be successful.

Dating Designs

Dating printed textiles can be problematic, as few have survived with an accurate provenance. With the help of pattern books, however, scholars have been able to identify many examples. Such has been the case particularly for the nineteenth century, for which patterns and design trends are documented in unusually complete extant records. Bannister Hall records exist for the 1790s through 1840, and the Stead McAlpin archives begin in 1835 and continue into the 1900s. Joseph Lockett’s records of engraved designs for the years 1806 to 1840 survive in the form of cylinder strike-offs on paper; the extensive, although incomplete, holdings of the Calico Printers’ Association in Manchester throw light on the period 1818 to 1837; and an enormous corpus of material is deposited at the National Archives in London, where thousands of cloth samples were registered for design copyright from 1842 to 1910.

Another factor that complicates the accurate dating of textiles is the fact that designs have frequently been repeated, revived, and altered, sometimes over a period of decades. Designers have been known to incorporate different motifs from one publication or cut and paste from several, making the accurate identification of an original source a difficult prospect.

Thankfully this is not always the case. The firm of Brunschwig & Fils has been licensing designs from Winterthur’s collection since 1971, a time when accurate reproductions of historic fabrics were highly fashionable. Their Bird & Thistle toile is based on a pattern dated stylistically to between 1785 and 1815. The pattern was produced originally with copper plates as well as engraved cylinders, and the plateprinted version has been in continuous production as a screen print since 1974.

fig. 6. Bird&ThistleAs in the past, today’s artisans continue to be inspired by what has come before. Designer and historian Susan Meller has described the phenomenon most eloquently: “The patterns of printed cloth suggest a larger pattern that contains them—what we may call the recycling wheel, which sets the motifs of textile designs on a circular road of eternal return. Nothing disappears, and nothing appears out of nowhere. Just as the individual pattern repeats incessantly over the course of a print run, its motifs are in repeat over the course of the decades.”2


Excerpted from Linda Eaton, Printed Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens, 1700–1850 (Published for Winterthur by The Monacelli Press, 2014).

1 Mary Schoeser, “A Secret Trade: Plate-Printed Textiles and Dress Accessories, c. 16201820,” Dress 34 (2007). I am grateful to Mary Schoeser for identifying so many of Barlow’s birds in the Winterthur collection.

2 Susan Meller and Joost Elffers, Textile Designs: Two Hundred Years of European and American Patterns Organized by Motif, Style, Color, Layout, and Period (New York: Abrams, 1991), 14.

Printed Textiles cover finalPrinted Textiles: British and American Cottons and Linens, 1700–1850 is now available at the Winterthur Bookstore. Author Linda Eaton, the John L. & Marjorie P. McGraw Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles at Winterthur, has produced the worthy sequel to Florence Montgomery’s 1970 publication, Printed Textiles. Focused primarily on fabrics used as furnishings referred to as “furnitures” rather than dress fabrics, the new volume addresses the textiles industry in both Britain and America, international trade, designers and design as well as the chemistry and technology of printing on cottons and linens.


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Yuletide Meets Downton Abbey

“We lived in four places every year, according to a clockwork schedule. New York; Southampton, on Long Island; [and] Florida’s west coast. But the anchor, the basis of everything, was Winterthur.”

– Ruth du Pont Lord, daughter of Henry Francis du Pont

For Henry Francis, his wife Ruth Wales, and their two daughters Pauline Louise and Ruth Ellen, Winterthur was “home,” where every year the family and friends gathered for the holidays.

This year’s Yuletide Tour at Winterthur draws influences from the blockbuster exhibition Costumes of Downton Abbey, on view in the Winterthur Galleries until January 4, 2015. Similar to the exhibition, the Yuletide theme showcases the parallels of an American country estate and the British country home.

Downton Abbey Tree,  designed by Mack Truax, Yuletide 2014

Downton Abbey Tree, designed by Mack Truax, Yuletide 2014

The Court, the first stop along the tour transports visitors back in time, screening movie clips from the 1930s and 40s. Clips from classics such as The Philadelphia Story, The Bishop’s Wife, and Sabrina depict sporting scenes on a country estate. It was common for the family to screen first-run movies in this space. Woven in among the scenes from the classics are photographs of the du Ponts enjoying their own pastimes on the estate, especially sledding in the snow.

One of many decorated trees on the tour, this year’s newest tree, located in the Empire Vestibule, pays homage to Costumes of Downton Abbey. It is decorated with ropes of pearls, beaded ornaments, tiaras, bells, and, in honor of the workers, an old-fashioned feather duster as the tree topper.

Both the American country estate and British country home were dependent on dedicated staff for their seamless operation, especially during the holidays. Down the hall from the elegant Downton Abbey tree is a display of the staff lounge. With a table set for tea, a small Christmas tree, dumbwaiter, telephone, and radio, the lounge was the staff’s retreat, where they could relax or entertain their own guests.

The staff lounge at Winterthur was equipped with an enunciator panel, making it easy for the family to request service at the touch of a button. This illustrates how the American estates were more technologically advanced than their British counterparts. On the period drama series, Downton Abbey, the family summoned staff by ringing a bell, just like those seen in the exhibition.

Montmorenci Staircase, Yuletide 2014

Montmorenci Staircase, Yuletide 2014

While this year’s theme draws inspiration from Costumes of Downton Abbey, visitors can expect to see their favorite Yuletide traditions along the tour.

The Baltimore Drawing Room paints a Christmas Eve cocktail party. At small tables with place cards, Henry Francis and his guests enjoyed caviar and martinis. While today’s caviar comes from Russia, at the time, the caviar would have come from the world’s main source—the Delaware River at Penns Grove, New Jersey!

The Montmorenci staircase is beautifully adorned in evergreen garland and pink poinsettias, which Henry Francis preferred over red. All ready for a party, a swing band is situated under the staircase and figures on display are dressed in mid-1920s outfits from the Delaware Historical Society.

The Du Pont Dining Room is decked out in red! A centerpiece of red oncidium, small orchids, sits grandly on the dining room table along with red glassware and a Santa carving at each place setting. According to Emily Post, dinner etiquette was to talk only to those on your left and right. In that respect, such a large centerpiece would not have obstructed the dining conversation.

Du Pont Dining Room, Yuletide 2014

Du Pont Dining Room, Yuletide 2014

The dried-flower tree in the Port Royal entrance hall is always a favorite among guests. Each year the tree is made fresh from flowers all dried by Winterthur staff. While the tree was not part of the du Pont family’s holiday traditions, is has become a Winterthur tradition as a tribute to Winterthur founder Henry Francis du Pont and his love of horticulture.

This year’s Yuletide Tour is sure to get you in the holiday spirit! Hopefully you can draw inspiration for your own holiday decorating and entertaining.

Presented by the Glenmede Trust Company, Yuletide is on display now through January 4, 2015. For more information and a full schedule of related programming, please visit

Costumes of Downton Abbey is presented by M & T Bank and DuPont. With support from the Glenmede Trust Company.

Post by Hilary Seitz, Marketing Communications Department


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A Clockmaker Named Claggett

Newport, Rhode Island, founded in 1639, was among the most successful port cities in the British North American colonies prior to the American Revolution. It boasted active intercoastal and trans-Atlantic trade connections and a vital core of creative craftsmen. Those overseeing its civic affairs were forward looking and adept politicians who fostered an environment that was receptive to and encouraging of freedom of thought and action. These circumstances provided the perfect setting for William Claggett, one of America’s most gifted clockmakers and practitioners of science.

060_FPCWilliam Claggett (ca. 1694–1749) and his two most notable apprentices, his son Thomas (died 1795) and his son-in-law, James Wady (died 1759) are remembered as having made some of the most remarkable clocks in pre-Revolutionary America—remarkable for their beauty and complicated mechanisms. Their clocks are even more notable for the distinctive cases local cabinetmakers fashioned to house them. Yet, in spite of the respect collectors and historians hold for these men, there remain many unanswered questions about them and their work.

Research is being conducted under the auspices of Winterthur Museum and the Newport Historical Society for a scholarly book on these men and their extraordinary clocks. The authors seek and will gratefully receive any information about these talented craftsmen pertaining to their lives. They would also be pleased to learn the existence of their handiwork including clocks, scientific instruments, musical instruments, and other related artifacts. Readers are asked to contact with any pertinent information.

Post by Donald Fennimore, Curator Emeritus, Winterthur Museum. Mr. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III are the co-authors of Stretch: America’s First Family of Clockmakers.

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