Philadelphia Chest on Chest, ca. 1775

Value (2013) | $40,000 Auction$60,000 Auction
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GUEST:
What I know is from a copy of my grandmother's will, which says it had been in her family for eight generations, so that makes me the ninth, I guess, or tenth generation.

APPRAISER:
Okay.

GUEST:
I know that it was in Philadelphia because the family was from Philadelphia. It was originally in a family known as Markoe, who were Danish sugar plantation owners in St. Croix, and they came to Philadelphia in the 1770s. One of the members of the family was a founder of the First City Light Troop, which was the first militia, volunteer militia, in the United States. So Revolutionary War period.

APPRAISER:
Okay, so you know quite a bit about it.

GUEST:
Well, yes, family history, but I don't know anything about the furniture.

APPRAISER:
Now, is there anything about this that looks a little wrong to you, a little off kilter?

GUEST:
That.

APPRAISER:
Good eye, good eye. That is a rococo revival ornament that was put on this piece. That probably dates to about 1850. Now, I assume this is how it sits in your home.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Okay, I'm going to do something here. I'm going to take that off. Now, originally this would have had a carved basket cartouche, probably with flowers coming out of it. Somewhere along the line, that piece got put in its place. It does have its original bracket feet. Now, if you've watched the show, you probably see the furniture appraisers are always taking things apart and pulling drawers out and that sort of thing. So one of the first things that we did was pull this drawer out. Now, if you look at the side on your end, that is oak. Big red flag for an American origin. But it's the exception that proves the rule, so let's look at the other woods here and see what they tell us. Now... Wait, what's that on the bottom? You see the signature there?

GUEST:
Oh, yes, vaguely. Oh, my!

APPRAISER:
It's a chalk signature that says "Thomas Savadge." Well, Thomas Savadge was a sawyer in Philadelphia during that period. He provided lumber for Benjamin Randolph, one of the most important cabinet makers in Philadelphia during the time of the Revolution.

GUEST:
My gosh! You're kidding!

APPRAISER:
And it's written on a white cedar drawer bottom. This is classic Philadelphia construction. And the oak is a red herring. It was used a lot in England, but they also used it in Philadelphia, and it's one of those details that can really throw people off. So this is a Philadelphia Revolutionary period high chest.

GUEST:
Oh, my God.

APPRAISER:
Now, one of the fun things is that Thomas Savadge was connected to Benjamin Randolph. Benjamin Randolph rode with Abraham Markoe. He was part of that light brigade. Randolph knew the Markoe family. And I can't say that this is Benjamin Randolph's shop, but this is right where all of those things are connecting in 1775, 1780 period Philadelphia. So you have the real thing here. I didn't count the generations, but the nice thing is, the clues the piece gives us confirms both your family history and also tells us that the piece was made there and didn't come from England or St. Croix in the Danish West Indies. So what do you think it's worth?

GUEST:
I have no clue. I'm just astonished.

APPRAISER:
As an English example, it's a $4,000 to $6,000 chest-on-chest. As a Philadelphia example, with the family history that you have and all those connections, at auction, I think you could add a zero and I think it's more like $40,000 to $60,000. So this is a real treasure and I'm so happy you sent it in for us to see. Thank you.

GUEST:
Well, thank you so much. This is wonderful.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Brunk Auctions
Asheville, North Carolina
Appraised value (2013)
$40,000 Auction$60,000 Auction
Event
Richmond, VA (August 17, 2013)
Period
18th Century
Material
Cedar, Oak

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