Appraisal Video: (3:55)
Lark Mason & Associates
GUEST: Well, 25 years ago, uh, my favorite cousin called up on the telephone. Said she was cleaning out the attic after her mother's death. And, uh, did I want a family chest that had been in the, that attic for about 75 years, at least? And as she described it, it was a chest that Edward Doty brought over on the Mayflower in 1620. And as I'm a direct descendant of Edward Doty, she thought I might like it. That was a no-brainer.
APPRAISER: So after you did that, what did you do?
GUEST: Well, I began to worry about it a little bit and thought, gee, I better, you know, insure this thing. But to assure it, insure it, you have to get an appraisal. So my attorney, uh, got into the act, and he knew somebody up in New York City. And he wrote that gentleman a letter on, um, December 15, 1984. And the gentleman's name was Lark Mason.
GUEST: So that was me. (laughs)
APPRAISER: That was the first time. So 1984, and I recommended at the time that you contact-- which is the next step... The Peabody Museum. Got back the most interesting letter, which says obviously of Asian extraction, th-this chest itself. But if it's Chinese brass work and came over the Mayflower in 1620, uh, how did that happen? Well, when you open up the box, on the inside, there's this panel and two papers that have been attached to it that basically go through, they give your family history from 1620 when the family came over on the Mayflower to the United States. What I'd like to draw attention to, though, is some elements that I think are very important to trying to ascertain the date. Number one, when you open it up, you get a very vibrantly grained type of wood. The type of wood that this is made up is huanghuali. It was a wood that was available in southern China beginning in about 1580.
APPRAISER: And from that point forward, you find furniture made of it. These types of hinges were hinges that were employed by the Dutch. And the Dutch were very much involved in China at an early period of time. Not all the wood is huanghuali. The base is a wood called tilimoo. It's a different type of wood. Dutch boxes like this were made throughout Southeast Asia. But they weren't made of tilimoo and huanghuali. Those were available in one spot really, which was Canton. Ah. Now, as you look at the outside, trying to come up with an idea of the date, the box itself is a baroque design.
APPRAISER: So 17th-century design. You see these wonderful brass mounts, which are stipple-engraved.
APPRAISER: We call this a bat wing brass.
APPRAISER: The brasses are Rococo, which you don't get until about 1720s, 1730s, '40s. What I noticed here in your family history is there's somebody who moved to Dutchess County.
APPRAISER: In New York.
APPRAISER: Dutchess County was an area where there was a tremendously large population of Dutch.
APPRAISER: The Dutch were engaged in the China trade.
GUEST: They were.
APPRAISER: My sense is that this probably did not come over on the Mayflower. But it could easily have been something that was picked up by your ancestor while he was in Dutchess County in the 1720s, which would fit perfectly with the brasses.
APPRAISER: It would fit with the basic design and the information we have that we know about the China trade. Even though it might be a 1720, 1740 piece, this would still be one of the earliest examples of documented Chinese furniture...
APPRAISER:...here in the West, if not the earliest, which is really great. The value: it's immaterial. Maybe $2,000 to $3,000.
GUEST: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. That solves a mystery that's been going on for all these years.
GUEST: No one knew the answer.