Philadelphia Lady's Dressing Chest, ca. 1800
Appraised Value: $4,500 - $6,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:53)
J. Michael Flanigan
Folk Art, Furniture
J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
APPRAISER: Tell me why you bought this piece.
GUEST: I just thought it was an interesting piece. It's not anything I really knew anything about. It's just from a sort of visual standpoint I just liked it.
APPRAISER: What do you think of it as?
GUEST: I don't know if it's American or English. It's a fancy nightstand, or a washstand, I guess is what it really is.
GUEST: I bought it not because it's really something that I personally collect, it's just... I just bought it because I said, "God, this is an interesting looking thing," you know?
APPRAISER: How do you use it now? What do you use it for?
GUEST: Well, I've got an Arts and Crafts lamp on it and I've got it next to the bed in my extra bedroom, so it's serving a different purpose than it used to, I would think.
APPRAISER: Now, I got to tell you that what this was used for you can't be really subtle about. This was the cutting-edge technology in bathrooms...
APPRAISER: at the turn of the 18th to the 19th century. This was the all-purpose, all-in-one bathroom accessory for the person of means. When you look at this, we start at the bottom. First thing we have down here, and it's a little sticky... Yeah. There we go. You know what this is?
GUEST: Well, I guess it's a... I think it's a toilet.
APPRAISER: Well, it's a bidet. You had to have the money not just to afford the basin...
APPRAISER: but to have the servant to empty it. It would have had most probably a ceramic insert. Some of them would have a drain and all they'd do was take the drain out, empty it and then toss it. But this is the first one I've ever seen with the dropout legs.
APPRAISER: Now, put it back and slide it in. It's a little stiff.
GUEST: Yeah. Okay.
APPRAISER: Now, this is where you put your chamber pot. 99% of these that I see are made in Baltimore. This is the first one that I've seen at this level that I was absolutely certain was Philadelphia.
APPRAISER: And why do I know it's Philadelphia? It has these very typical legs from the Sheraton period often associated with cabinetmakers called Haines and Connelly. This little inset triple reeding is very typical of Philadelphia, not the Baltimore model. Baltimore used a much heavier, sharper, fuller reeding. The cool thing about this is having that place for the chamber pot is very, very unusual. And then to do it with the tambour is really special. Now, I think it's pretty obvious when you think of a bathroom feature that a marble top's a great thing to have.
GUEST: Right, for the water.
APPRAISER: For the water, but it's also for the soaps and the oils and perfumes. What room would they have this thing in?
GUEST: There were no bathrooms.
APPRAISER: Right, so... This would be in the bedroom.
APPRAISER: Back here you would have two trays, one for some sort of ointment maybe, maybe soap.
APPRAISER: You'd put other pieces back in here-- combs, the rest. One of the best things about this you're actually missing. Here you've got this little adjustable bolt.
APPRAISER: There was a drop-down mirror that you would lift up, it would tilt. That would allow the woman to use it as a toilette and put on her makeup. So, great Philadelphia example, pretty good condition, some condition issues, obviously. How much did you have to give for this when you bought it?
GUEST: I paid $2,000 for it about 15, 20 years ago.
APPRAISER: You know, that was pretty much top of the market. You didn't get a bargain in any sense of the word. But you got the best. This is one where it's a very complex thing to make that mirror again. I'd be tempted to have the mirror section rebuilt.
GUEST: Oh, really? Okay.
APPRAISER: Without the mirror, $4,500 to $6,000.
APPRAISER: Put the mirror back on, even with it being a replaced mirror, even with the other condition issues, $8,000 to $10,000. It is, without question, the best, the latest, the hottest bit of bedroom bathroom technology of 1800. It's a wonderful thing to see, and I'm glad we don't have to use these anymore.
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