New England Gentleman's Chest, ca. 1830
Appraised Value: $4,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:25)
Decorative Arts, Folk Art, Silver
Owner, Appraiser and Chief Auctioneer
GUEST: The family's originally from up in New Hampshire. I know that my great-great-grandmother bought it at an auction about 1840, and there was a table that matched it that another relative has.
APPRAISER: It was made somewhere between Salem, Massachusetts, Saco, Maine, and inland into New Hampshire a little bit. It is a chest of drawers for a very large home. And a lot of times these big houses with high ceilings, many different members of a family would live in the house. And so maybe a bachelor uncle had this because you know what these drawers are for, these long drawers here?
GUEST: Well, we were told they were for wine and alcohol.
APPRAISER: Absolutely. That's okay. We all drink it. It was made out of several different woods. It would have been stained to look like mahogany except for these wonderful panels here, which are flame birch. It's actually diseased birch tree and had this beautiful grain in it. And they would slice it in very thin veneers that they could put on to give the great contrast between light and dark. These woods here on these two surfaces are what are known as birch or mountain mahogany. The cabinetmakers called it "mountain mahogany" because originally it would have been stained and you could not tell the difference between this and the mahogany veneer on these little drawers here. This is made out of cherry, again, a native hardwood that would stain up to look like mahogany. It's quite an exuberant piece of furniture; large bold feet. And this is the type of thing if somebody was wealthy, they would have a big chest of drawers. Today, people like to buy the smaller ones and those are the ones that bring a lot of money, but in the old days, this was the best one that you could have because it had everything. Now, the detail here is very unusual. You see this acanthus-leaf carving? And behind it is this little star-punching. And this was originally done by the McIntire family in Salem, Massachusetts, but other people also copied it. I would say this was made around 1830.
GUEST: What do you call these little goodies?
APPRAISER: These are called rosettes. They're stamped brass. This piece of furniture has its original brasses on it. Originally, they would have been polished to the hilt. These are very much in the classical taste from 1830. These were probably left over from the Federal Period around 1810.
APPRAISER: Another interesting feature on this piece of furniture on the back, there are these beautiful mortise constructions which they used on sideboards usually. I've not seen it on a chest of drawers before, but it is such a big piece of furniture. Whoever made this wanted it to be well made. Now, have you ever had it appraised?
GUEST: Uh, just kind of in passing and it was a long time ago.
APPRAISER: And what was that at?
GUEST: About $2,500.
APPRAISER: Well, today it's worth around $4,000 at auction only because it's so spectacular, unusual and it has its original feet. So often they cut the feet off, because they were too tall for modern homes. So you've got a real treasure here with great contrasting wood.
GUEST: Thank you.
APPRAISER: You're welcome.
GUEST: I love it. (laughs)
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