English immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth colonies quickly established the region’s furniture-making tradition. more

In the World

  • 1619Galileo perfects the telescope
  • 1621The transatlantic slave trade begins
  • 1702Queen Anne ascends to the English throne

In Massachusetts

  • 1620The Mayflower lands
  • 1630The city of Boston is founded
  • 16921692 Salem Witch Trials

New England Begins

From the Coast to the Valley, 1640-1730

As the seventeenth century progressed, immigrants moved inland toward the central and western parts of the Massachusetts colony.

Between 1636 and 1673, they established towns such as Springfield, Westfield, Northampton, Hadley, Hatfield, Deerfield, and others in the Connecticut River Valley. The furniture made in these towns was largely English in its origins but reflected a distinct regional identity heavily influenced by the patronage of the influential Pynchon family. William Pynchon and later his son, John, provided steady work for craftsmen engaged in building houses and furniture throughout the area.

The joined furniture from this area, when ornamented, was often carved with the tulip-and-leaf design that has come to be called the Hadley motif. This distinctive Hadley furniture constitutes one of the largest, roughly homogenous bodies of work to survive from early America.

Selected Bibliography

  • Hosley, William N., Jr., and Gerald W. R. Ward, eds. The Great River: Art and Society of the Connecticut Valley, 1635-1820. Hartford, CT: Wadsworth Atheneum, 1985. (See esp. essay on furniture by Philip Zea.)
  • Luther, Clair Franklin. The Hadley Chest. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood and Brainard Co., 1935.
  • Luther, Clair Franklin. Supplemental List of Hadley Chests Discovered since Publication of the Book in 1935, Together with Changes in Ownership as Reported. Hartford, CT: Case, Lockwood and Brainard Co., 1938.
  • Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. “Hannah Barnard’s Cupboard: Female Property and Identity in Eighteenth-Century New England.” In Through a Glass Darkly: Reflections on Personal Identity in Early America, ed. Ronald Hoffman, Mechal Sobel, and Fredrika J. Teute, 238-73. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press for the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Williamsburg, VA, 1997.
  • Zea, Philip. “The Fruits of Oligarchy: Patronage and the Hadley Chest Tradition in Western Massachusetts.” In New England Furniture, 1-65.
  • Zea, Philip. “Rural Craftsmen and Design.” In New England Furniture: The Colonial Era, by Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye, 47-72. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984.

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