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Apothecary Chest on Frame

1760-1800
Origin: America, Connecticut, Litchfield
OH: 64 7/8"; OW: 40 3/4"; OD: 14 1/4"
Cherry with tulip poplar and white pine
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1950-635
Appearance: Apothecary chest on frame in two sections: flat, rectangular top surrounded by molded cornice; straight sides; front of upper section composed of six rows of drawers, each with four drawers; each drawer has central brass knob; lower section has flat, rectangular top surrounded by raised, applied molding to receive top section; straight sides; front composed of two rows of four drawers each, each with central brass knob; skirt arched on sides, arched and scalloped in front; four plain, cabriole legs terminating in pad feet on discs.

Construction: Upper Case: sides are dovetailed to the top and bottom boards; drawer blades and top and bottom rails are dovetailed into the case sides; vertical dividers dovetailed to the top and bottom rails and are set into notches in the drawer blades; the sides of the drawer blade notches are in turn set in dados in the vertical dividers; outer drawer supports are half lapped with a mitered bottom edge to the drawer blade, pegged with one peg to the case sides, and tenoned through the backboard; wide inner drawer supports with integral drawer guide along the top are half lapped to the drawer blades with a mitered bottom edge and just behind the vertical drawer dividers, nailed to the drawer blades with a large nail that was not driven completely into the wood, and tenoned through the backboard; three vertical, lapped backboards are set into rabbets in the case sides, pegged with large square pegs to the rear edges of the top and bottom boards; cornice and part of the waist molding are nailed or pegged to the case sides and front edges of the top and bottom boards; drawers have standard dovetail construction with a single nail through the central rear dovetail, bottoms chamfered around the front and sides are slid into dadoes in the front and sides and nailed with a single nail to the bottom edge of the drawer back; drawer back is about a half inch shorter than the drawer sides; top edges of sides have a single bead.

Lower case: bottom front rail, sides, backboard are tenoned and pegged to the legs; top front rail and drawer divider are dovetailed to the legs; vertical drawer dividers are dovetailed to the top and bottom rails and are set in notches in the drawer divider, the edges of which are dadoed to the vertical dividers; outer drawer supports with integral drawer guide are half lapped with a mitered bottom edge to the drawer blade, nailed with a single nail into the front leg, and tenoned through the back board; wide inner drawer supports are dovetailed to the drawer blades with two half dovetails one at the each edge of the support and tenoned through the backboard; drawer guide is pegged to the top of these inner drawer supports with two pegs; waist molding is nailed or pegged to the top edges of the sides and top front rail; there is no top board, the upper case sits on the inner corners of the leg posts; drawers have the same construction as the upper case but the drawer backs are not as short compared to the sides in the lower case.


Woods: All framing and drawer linings are tulip poplar except for the drawer runners and the rear of each drawer, which are white pine.
Label:Dr. Reuben Warner of Bridgewater, Connecticut, originally owned this apothecary chest. Although he used it for the storage of medicines rather than household textiles, the overall form and style were adapted from the design of local high chests of drawers.

The Pasteur and Galt Apothecary Shop on Duke of Gloucester Street here in Williamsburg features the same types of medicines and medical equipment that Dr. Warner would have used in Connecticut. Dr. William Pasteur and Dr. John Galt, apothecary-surgeons who received their training at Saint Thomas Hospital in London, both apprenticed in Williamsburg where they were partners from 1775 until 1778.
Provenance:According to history supplied by Mr. Byard, the chest was made in the second half of the 18th century by Dr. Reuben Warner of Bridgewater, Connecticut and that it had descended in the Warner, Judson, and Keeler families who resided in “Shepaug Neck” a section of New Milford, CT, later called Bridgewater. A number of years ago Harriett Coupal visited CW and told us that the chest had descended in her family through the Warners, Judsons, and Keelers and that it had been in her grandfather’s home “Nine Hearths” in Bridgewater. Her grandfather was Reuben Judson Keeler (b. 1858). The descent of the chest through her family was as follows: Dr. Reuben Warner (1753-1804) to his son, Dr. Reuben Warner Jr. (1782-1828), to his daughter Emily Adeline Warner Judson (1809-1853), to her son Dr. Reuben Warner Judson, to his daughter Ann Jeannett Judson Keeler (m. 1856), to her son Reuben Judson Keeler (1858-1947).
Mark(s):Inscribed Roman numerals in drawer bottoms and drawer blades, and elsewhere on chest such as on proper right side of lower case and proper right rear leg.
Inscription(s):Pencil inscriptions on second drawer from right in fourth row of upper section: " L.... Box/ Reuben Box 1084/ Nellie Box 14/ Box / Hiram Box 387." On other side of drawer in crayon "HIRAM KEELER." Second drawer from right in third row of upper section "Grandpa Judson's Medicine Chest"; Roman numerals scratched into bottom drawers.
Pencil inscription on back of lower case backboard "POSTOFFICE" "A.DAMS EXPRESS/ OFFICE"