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Sideboard

1795-1810
Origin: America, South Carolina, Georgetown
OH: 42"; OW: 69 1/2"; OD: 27"
Mahogany, yellow pine, *holly, and *satinwood. (*=microanalysis)
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1930-120
Appearance: Rectangular sideboard with serpentine front; three shallow drawers across top; recessed panel at bottom center features two doors and is flanked by two ovolo panels and two deep drawers; each door and drawer features triple stringing and four quarter-fan inlays; six tapered legs, four at the front and two at rear; front legs have inlaid stringing, cuffs, and bellflowers; satinwood oval panels inlaid into tops of pilasters; triple string inlaid into front edge of top but not sides; original drawer pulls were stamped oval plates with bails; lower right drawer has bottle dividers at bottom; lower left drawer once had a removable tray supported by four (intact) vertical corner blocks.

Construction: The top consists of two butt-joined quarter-inch-thick mahogany boards fixed to a mortised-and-tenoned frame of three lateral rails and two end rails. This assembly is attached to the case with screws driven from below. The backboard and the veneered side panels are tenoned into the legs. The top, middle, and bottom front rails are double-tenoned into the right and left front legs and notched on the rear to receive the two central legs. Two full-height interior dividers are tenoned into the rear faces of the central front legs and nailed to the backboard. A bottom board spans the center section only and is nailed to the lower edges of the interior dividers. The doors are veneered on cores consisting of horizontal laminations with a batten at each side. The dovetailed drawers have fronts veneered on horizontal laminations. Their beveled bottoms are set into grooves at the front and sides and flush-nailed at the rear.

Materials: Mahogany top, legs, top edge veneers, case side veneers, drawer blade veneers, drawer divider veneers, drawer front veneers, and door veneers; yellow pine all secondary woods; *holly light stringing, ebonized stringing, quarter-fans, and bellflowers; *satinwood oval inlays.
Label:This sideboard represents one of the most widely available variations of the form in both Britain and the United States. The Cabinet-Makers' London Book of Prices (1793) and similar books from Philadelphia and New York termed it a "serpentine-front celleret sideboard," acknowledging the shape of the facade and the presence of bottle dividers in one of the deep drawers. Such books also listed most of the structural and ornamental options seen here. For instance, the basic four-legged rendition could be embellished with "Two extra legs" for 2s., 6d., and the "knee hole" could be filled with a "straight-front cupboard" for 9s. Additional charges were assessed for "forming Pannels with [inlaid] Strings" on the doors, drawers, and legs and for incorporating inlaid ovals, quarter-fans, and bellflowers.

Made in South Carolina, this sideboard is ascribed to Georgetown, a small seaport on Winyah Bay about sixty miles north of Charleston. The attribution is based on the object's history in the Watson family of Georgetown and on its strong similarities to a sideboard that descended in the Alston family of nearby Brookgreen and Chicora plantations (MESDA accession 950-5). Although the Alston sideboard has additional ornament and shaping that made it more expensive, the two share many characteristics. They exhibit the same arrangement of doors and drawers, with a center drawer veneered to look like two openings instead of one. Their central cupboard doors are flanked by veneered convex panels with oval stringing, and their front stiles are variously adorned with elongated inlaid oval panels bordered by double stringing. Both have veneered doors and drawer fronts edged with contrasting banding and enriched with rectilinear panels of stringing punctuated by quarter-fans. The front legs of both sideboards are trimmed with single string inlays that join in a V-shape to support chains of three bellflowers interspersed with inlaid dots. Finally, the bellflowers on the two pieces are virtually identical, each being uncommonly wide and devoid of the usual engraving or shading. Minor differences in construction suggest that these sideboards are from different, although perhaps allied, shops. Their many specific parallels and their similar histories imply that they are typical of local taste. Sideboards resembling the present example were produced in Britain, New York, and Charleston, and the design might have reached Georgetown from any of them.

It is not surprising that furniture of this grade was made in Georgetown. Established in the 1720s and declared an official port of entry in 1731, the city and surrounding environs had a population of more than 5,000 free citizens by 1790. Although Georgetown's mid-century success as a commercial and shipbuilding center steadily decreased after the Revolution in the face of competition from Charleston and the gradual silting of the harbor, the town continued to be an important regional market. Georgetown also maintained its position as a point of transshipment for crops produced by some of the wealthiest indigo and rice planters in the Low Country.

While the workmanship in the Watson and Alston sideboards is less refined than that typical of Charleston, evidence points to a connection between furniture makers there and in Georgetown. After working in Charleston for about a decade, cabinetmaker William Lupton relocated to Georgetown in the 1750s and remained there until at least 1783. Peter Cooper (1783-1812), an apprentice who "absconded" from Charleston cabinetmaker Alexander Calder sometime after 1792, is likely the "Mr. PETER COOPER, Cabinet Maker" who died in Georgetown in 1812. Georgetown advertisements like the one Edmund Morris placed in 1819 indicate the range of forms available locally: "Sideboards, secretaries, Bureaus, Bedsteads, dining Tables, Tea Tables, Light stands, wash Stands, &c."

It is not clear if Georgetown cabinetmakers followed the example of post-Revolutionary artisans in other coastal centers and expanded their trade by warehousing furniture from a variety of sources. However, several details on the CWF sideboard indicate that it was custom ordered rather than ready made for the ware room. In the South, edge banding on doors and drawers was usually executed in lightwood, as on the Alston sideboard. That on the Watson example was ebonized, or blackened, an unusual choice that may represent the patron's preference. More important, all ornamentation on the sideboard, even the inlaid stringing along the top, is confined to the facade. This strongly suggests that the sideboard was made for a specific architectural recess where the sides of the case would not have been seen.
Provenance:The sideboard was owned by the Watson family of Georgetown, S. C., at the time of its purchase by William K. Miller of Augusta, Ga., in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Miller's descendants, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton Miller of Augusta, sold the sideboard to antiques dealer Israel Sack in 1928. CWF purchased the sideboard from Sack in 1930.
Mark(s):None.
Inscription(s):"2 1/4" is written in pencil on the underside of the upper left drawer.