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Blanket chest

Origin: America, North Carolina, Alamance County
OH: 27"; OW: 50 5/8"; OD: 23 3/4"
Black walunt, tulip poplar, oak, and lightwood linlay
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2001-809
Appearance: A chest on four turned feet that support a dovetailed carcass bisected with a heavy horizontal mid-molding and inlaid with the inscription ":EW:RW 1765:"; fitted below with a pair of drawers with inlaid stringing and above with a lift top of two walnut boards secured with a spline joint, and affixed to the chest with iron strap hinges, revealing a till at the left (lid detached) with a "secret" compartment.

Construction: Upper (chest) section: A two board, splined, walnut top. Cleats are nailed with wrought nails to the underside of the top on either side and conformed to fit tightly to the exterior of the case sides. Two original forged strap hinges are secured with rosehead nails. Original lock with early (possibly original) screws and receiver nailed to lid with rosehead nails. Front, sides and back are joined with exposed dovetails with those in back being larger than those on the front. Several of the dovetails, both front and back, have been reinforced with wrought nails. The lid on the interior till has iron pintles (one of which is missing) set into holes in the front and rear of the case. Till lid is wedge shaped front to back and is scratch beaded on front and back edge. The till bottom and a false bottom are set in dados in the front and back of the case. The till side rests in vertical dados in case front and back. Side is notched at top so it can slide up in dado to reveal compartment under the false bottom. The two-board case bottom is flush with the outer edge of the case and is nailed to the bottom edge of the front, back and sides. An ogee medial molding is nailed to the front and side edges of the bottom of the upper (chest) section. Beveled vertical legs nailed to the sides, front and back in each corner of the case extend through the bottom board as well as the lower (drawer) case and are integral to the turned feet.

Lower (drawer) section: The walnut front, back and side rails are butt joined and nailed to the legs that (as previously noted) extend from the upper case. The front rails overlap the side rails and the side rails overlap the back rails. Center post and drawer blades are integral to the front rail. Center post is nailed from above through the bottom of the upper chest and backed at the top by blocks nailed to the underside of the chest bottom board, one of which functions as the inside drawer guide for both drawers. Inside drawer runners are nailed to the front and back rails. Outside drawer runners are nailed to the legs, with outside drawer guides nailed to the top of the runners.

Drawers are dovetail construction with front to back grained two board bottoms nailed to bottom edge of sides and back and into a rabbet formed by the overhang of the bottom edge of the front. Brasses are of the same pattern, although one has a keyhole and the other does not. Both appear to be original, with original posts, but one bail is a replacement and the descending lobe is missing on one escutcheon.
Label:Inlaid with the initials “EW” and RW” and the date “1765” it is believed that this chest was originally made in that year for Edward and Rachael Wilson, of Orange (now Alamance) County, North Carolina. The date may commemorate the year the chest was built or perhaps the Wilson’s marriage. The chest descended in the family until the end of the 20th century. Orange County was settled by Germans, Quakers, and Scotch-Irish, many who had lived in southeastern Pennsylvania prior to migrating south during the mid-18th century. Chests, used for storing all types of textiles and valuables, were popular among settlers of all ethnic and religious backgrounds. This is one of the earliest dated pieces of furniture from the North Carolina piedmont region and appears to have been made for a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian family.
Provenance:The chest descended in the Wilson and Whitsett family of Whitsett, North Carolina to Mrs. Fred Walton (Mary Alice Moser) Lee, Jr. in Alamance County. According to the vendor who purchased the chest from the estate of Mrs. Mary Alice Moser Lee (b. 1914), Mrs. Lee had inherited the chest from her father, Adolphus Moser (1871-1941), and he had inherited it from his mother Margaret Ann Whitsett Moser (1838-1910). Her parents were John Constance Whitsett (1808-1881) and Jane Wilson Whitsett (1803-1879). Jane's parents were William Wilson and Peggy Tinnin (m.1803). William may be the son of Edward and Rachael Wilson. Edward's Orange County will of 1812 mentions his wife Rachael and son William along with other children. Edward and Rachael Wilson may be the original owners of this chest. They arrived in Hawfields, near Whitsett, in 1764.
Mark(s):Inlaid "EW RW 1765"