Although Massachusetts led the way in rebelling against the British in the American Revolution, the state's patrons and craftsmen remained wedded to English taste after the revolution. more

In the World

  • 1793Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin
  • 1815Battle of Waterloo
  • 1851Publication of Moby Dick

In Massachusetts

  • 1796Bulfinch’s State House completed
  • 1831William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator
  • 1841Brook Farm Transcendental Movement experiment

Neoclassicism in the New Nation

Scrolls and Pillars, 1815-1840

A second wave of neoclassicism featured furniture in a heavier, monumental mode echoing more literally the designs of ancient Greece, Rome, and occasionally Egypt.

Often labeled the Empire style, as a reference to its indebtedness to the era of Napoleon Bonaparte, the designs of this era reflected French as well as English taste. In Boston, Isaac Vose and Son and Emmons and Archbald were leading manufacturers of the new style. The latter firm’s shop, representative of the larger urban shops of this era, included a commodious warehouse and a workshop with eleven workbenches for journeymen and apprentices.

As the nineteenth century progressed, companies of all sizes created massive tables, chests, and other forms characterized as “pillar and scroll” furniture after two of its principal attributes.

Selected Bibliography

  • Cooper, Wendy A. Classical Taste in America, 1800-1840. New York: Abbeville Press, 1993.
  • Feld, Stuart P., with an introductory essay by Page Talbott. Boston in the Age of Neo-Classicism, 1810-1840. New York: Hirschl and Adler Galleries, 1999.
  • Hall, John. John Hall and the Grecian Style in America: A Reprint of Three Pattern Books published in 1840 with an Illustrated Essay by Thomas Gordon Smith. New York: Acanthus Books, 1996.
  • Talbott, Page. “Boston Empire Furniture.” Antiques, pt. 1, 107, no. 5 (May 1975): 878-87; pt. 2, 109, no. 5 (May 1976): 1004-13.
  • Talbott, Page. “Continuity and Innovation: Recliners, Sofa Beds, Rocking Chairs, and Folding Chairs.” Antiques 161, no. 5 (May 2002): 124-33.
  • Talbott, Page. “The Furniture Trade in Boston, 1810-1835.” Antiques 141, no. 5 (May 1992): 842-55.
  • Talbott, Page. “Seating Furniture in Boston, 1810-1835.” Antiques 139, no. 5 (May 1991): 956-69.

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