Origin: America, Rhode Island, Newport
OH: 28 1/4"; OW: 33 15/16"; OD open: 30 3/4"; OD closed: 15 3/8"
Mahogany, birch, and white pine
Bequest of Francis Taliaferro Stribling Powell with the assistance of Mrs. Grace Powell, his widow
Acc. No. 1956-273
Appearance: top with serpentine front and half serpentine sides; plain playing surface; edges of upper leaf fluted; edges of lower leaf with cavetto molding; serpentine front rail and straight side rails with figured mahogany veneers; chip carved cock bead on edge of front and side rails; four tapered legs with molded outer and plain inner surfaces; pierced fretwork knee brackets; a small drawer (missing) was originally concealed behind swing hinge rail.
Construction: Both leaves are cut from single boards. The lower leaf is attached to the frame with screws set in wells in the rails. The front rail consists of a two-piece vertical lamination that is shaped on its front face and flat on the rear. The side rails are solid. The left side rail is dovetailed to the inner rear rail, while the right rail is tenoned into the right rear leg. Each corner of the inner frame is reinforced with a single full-height quarter-round glue block. The fixed hinge rail is separated from the inner rear rail by two vertical spacer blocks, and the inner rail is secured to the fixed hinge rail with original screws and wrought nails driven from the inside through the spacer blocks. The swing hinge rail rides on a standard knuckle hinge. The missing inner drawer originally was supported on runners that were tenoned into the front rail and nailed to the inner rear rail.
Materials: Mahogany top, legs, brackets, cock beading, front rail veneer, and side rail veneers; birch hinge rails; white pine front rail, side rails, inner rear rail, hinge rail spacer blocks, and glue blocks.
Label:The quantity of furniture exported from northern cabinetmaking centers to the South was relatively modest during the last decades of the colonial period. Shipments increased dramatically toward the end of the eighteenth century, due in part to the increasing popularity of neoclassical furniture with its renewed emphasis on curvilinear shaping, broad areas of veneer, and ornamental inlays. Cabinet operations in the urbanized North were well suited to the cost-effective production of such complex goods. Their work force, generally large and highly specialized, could produce the furniture relatively cheaply and in volume.
This table is typical of the modest "export grade" furniture northern shops commonly shipped to the South during the early national period. It exhibits restrained ornamentation and construction of the most rudimentary sort, traits that made good economic sense for northern tradesmen since little of the furniture they sent south was "bespoken," or custom ordered. Northern furniture was usually treated as venture cargo when it arrived in southern ports, that is, the goods were sold for the best price the ship's captain or a local retailer or auctioneer could get. Furniture that went unsold in one port sometimes was offered again at the next town. It would have been financially unwise for northern cabinetmakers to ship expensive, ornate furniture that might not find a purchaser and could be subjected to the rigors of repeated loading and unloading.
The CWF table was made in Newport, Rhode Island, one of several shipping points for northern furniture makers. Other cities actively involved in this post-Revolutionary trade included Portsmouth, Salem, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Most of the goods sent to the South from these places were sold only in coastal towns and river ports because the lack of paved roads made inland transshipment of bulky goods like furniture too difficult and costly to be profitable. The first owners of the table were James and Frances Bragg Cuthbert of Norfolk, the largest seaport in Virginia and one of the South's most active participants in the coastal trade.
Provenance:An import from New England, the table descended from James Cuthbert and Frances Bragg (m. Norfolk, Va., 2 June 1812); to their daughter Henrietta Frances Cuthbert (1813-1889) who married Dr. Francis Taliaferro Stribling (1810-1874) of Staunton, Va., in 1832; to their daughter Ella Matilda Stribling (1833-1835) who married Hugh Lee Powell of Staunton in 1867; to their children Lucy Lee Powell (b. 1868), Louise M. Powell (b. 1871), and Francis Taliaferro Stribling Powell (b. 1874) who married Grace E.?; the table was bequeathed to Colonial Williamsburg by Francis T.S. Powell with a life right for his wife, Grace Powell, in a document executed in 1954. Mrs. Powell, a widow, gave the table to CWF in 1956.
Francis T.S. Powell and his sisters remembered that the table belonged to their grandparents, Frances Taliaferro Stribling and Henrietta Cuthbert Stribling of Staunton. Prior ownership by Henrietta's parents, James and Frances Cuthbert of Norfolk, is now surmised from the date of the table and the Cuthberts residence in a seaport where New England imports were readily available. A pair of shield-back chairs attributed to Norfolk (acc. G1956-2785,1-2) descended in the same family. Family tradition also holds that Frances Bragg Cuthbert went to live with her daughter Henrietta Frances Cuthbert Stribling in Staunton after James Cuthbert was lost at sea, probably in the 1830s or '40s. See portraits of Frances and James Cuthbert (acc. G1956-271 and G1956-272) and Henrietta Cuthbert as a child (1941.100.7).
Inscription(s):A gummed mid-twentieth-century label on the inner surface of the right side rail is inscribed in ink "[torn] by + / [torn] [illeg.] to / Mr. Cogar, Curator, / for Colonial / Williamsburg."