Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


Support ANTIQUES ROADSHOW by supporting public television! Give Today
  • SHOP
  • Appraisals

    18th-Century American Dower Chest

    Appraised Value:

    $800 - $1,200

    Appraised on: July 26, 2003

    Appraised in: Chicago, Illinois

    Appraised by: Leigh Keno

    Category: Furniture

    Episode Info: Chicago, Hour 3 (#802)

    Originally Aired: January 12, 2004

    slideshow IMAGE: 1 of 1  

    More Like This:

    Form: Chest
    Material: Poplar, Walnut
    Period / Style: 18th Century
    Value Range: $800 - $1,200

    Related Links:

    Understanding Our Appraisals
    Useful tips to keep in mind when watching ANTIQUES ROADSHOW


    Appraisal Video: (3:35)


    Appraised By:

    Leigh Keno
    Folk Art, Furniture

    Appraisal Transcript:
    APPRAISER: Came down in your husband's side of the family?

    GUEST: Correct, it did come down in his family. They date back to the 1700s, and they're from Maryland, and that's about all we know.

    APPRAISER: From Maryland, from the 1700s. Do you know what it is, first of all?

    GUEST: I think it's a blanket chest.

    APPRAISER: Blanket chest, okay. I'll tell you, it is called a dower chest. It's something that would have held blankets, but also could have been used for a young lady or occasionally a young man's dowry. They kept things inside of it, in the drawers, locked them up until... until they were married. I'm going to tell you, I think it was made probably down in that area Pennsylvania or probably Maryland. Do you know what wood it's made of? Have you ever wondered that?

    GUEST: I've wondered, but I don't know what it is.

    APPRAISER: You've really wondered? Any guesses on it-- on what kind of wood?

    GUEST: I just have no idea.

    APPRAISER: Okay. This is the neat thing. It's made-- the whole thing is made of poplar, tulip poplar.

    GUEST: Really?

    APPRAISER: Have you heard of that?

    GUEST: Oh, yeah.

    APPRAISER: Poplar grew in the 18th century and the 19th century in Pennsylvania and in Maryland and they made... they made chests out of it, they made all sorts of things, but they made painted furniture out of it. This was at one time painted. It was completely... yeah, completely decorated.

    GUEST: You're kidding.

    APPRAISER: This is poplar, the front's poplar, the whole thing was made of poplar. It's a soft wood. And if we come to the front, you've got these three panels. There are a whole group of chests that were made in Pennsylvania and Maryland, in Berks County and other places, with vases of flowers. Have you ever seen those?

    GUEST: I have seen those.

    APPRAISER: This could have been completely decorated. We only have to use our imagination to kind of think what might have been on there.

    GUEST: Right.

    APPRAISER: But a long time ago, someone did clean it. Do you think it was somebody in your husband's family?

    GUEST: I'm sure it was in his family, yeah. Way back when.

    APPRAISER: And, uh... and it was one of his ancestors' dowry chest, which is so neat. I was looking around for some initials somewhere. There weren't any, but sometimes on the painted ones, this could have had initials and a date here, from the late 18th century on here, but it's long gone.

    GUEST: Right.

    APPRAISER: Now, Pat, when they took the paint off, your family member or someone also actually replaced these drawer fronts. This drawer... This drawer actually had a lock in it. Did you notice that? If you take it out, you can see this.

    GUEST: No, I never noticed that.

    APPRAISER: It had a lock and someone busted that lock open, it got damaged, and someone in your family very carefully made a nice, new facing on the drawer to make it look nice. They did it out of walnut, which doesn't match the poplar. They also replaced this base. Did you know that, Pat?

    GUEST: No, no.

    APPRAISER: Yeah, they did a nice job. It's probably walnut. So they're new feet, new drawer fronts. The paint's gone, but you know, it's a survivor, you know. Your family's kind of taken care of it. The paint's probably been off for a hundred years.

    GUEST: That would be my guess.

    APPRAISER: But it's something that... It's nice to have a bit of the heritage and I tell you, today people love chests like this in their homes. What do you do in your home with it?

    GUEST: I have quilts in it that we inherited from his family, too.

    APPRAISER: That's a nice thing. And so you're using it for what it was originally used for, to keep textiles. As a chest with replaced feet, replaced drawer fronts, it's not real valuable.

    GUEST: Right.

    APPRAISER: You know, it's probably $800 to $1,200 as a nice decorative piece. Because it was in your family, it's priceless, I know, and you'll never sell it, right?

    GUEST: Absolutely.

    APPRAISER: If it had painted decoration, chests like this, fully painted, the best type, bring up to $30,000 to $50,000. But we just have to imagine what might have been there.

    WGBH This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
    ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
    WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
    PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.

    ROADSHOW on Facebook ROADSHOW Tweets ROADSHOW on YouTube