Made in America: 3 fun facts about American furniture

As we in the States prepare for the fun and festivities of Fourth of July weekend, we experience a swell of pride for all things American.  (And we at Baker celebrate our American-made furniture in particular!) Our furniture experts here are full of fun facts — so we asked them to provide a few about early American designs. Enjoy!

Fun fact #1: The doors on American cabinets were often made with thirteen individual panes.

The Historic Charelston Collection - China Cabinet - No. 2535

This China Cabinet from The Historic Charleston Collection has thirteen curvy panes of glass on each door.

Elite American cabinetmakers, with even more elite patrons, celebrated independence by honoring the thirteen original states as a part of daily life.  Such elegant cabinets, and the books they held, were intended to make a statement— about wealth, erudition, and liberty.

Fun fact #2: After the signing of the Constitution, the eagle became a common symbol of freedom in America.

Vintage Baker furniture - Ohio Painted Cupboard

This vintage Baker cupboard has a gilded eagle prominently displayed.

Just how common?  Well, this particular cupboard resided in a popular tavern around the time its Ohio home became a state!  The eagle was a unique symbol of both freedom earned through revolution and freedom discovered on the frontier.

Fun fact #3: Each American colony had its own, sometimes entirely unique, cabinetmaking tradition.

We’ll give you two examples!

The Historic Charleston Collection - Chest on Chest on Chest - No. 2905

Chest on Chest on Chest from The Historic Charleston Collection

The chest-on-chest-on-chest was the invention of Charleston, South Carolina cabinetmaking legend Thomas Elfe. It celebrated portability as a fact of life rather than lifestyle (as it was easier to move three smaller pieces than one large one). The well-traveled elite of this international city often moved to summer homes (or elsewhere) as the seasons changed.

The Historic Charleston Collection - Bow Front Chest - No. 1978

This Historic Charleston Collection Bow Front Chest has two types of wood veneer decoration.

Far to the north in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the two-tone chest—largely unknown elsewhere — was an example of necessity, and availability, being the mother of invention. Cabinetmakers in this colony didn’t have access to some of the more exotic wood species available in other colonies (such as those with ports involved with the triangular trade) — so in an attempt to make their cabinets look more interesting, they used two types of wood in their designs.

The Historic Charleston Collection - Bow Front Chest - No. 1978

A close-up of the two-toned veneers on the Bow Front Chest

Hope you enjoyed our trivia! Have a safe and happy Fourth (whatever your nationality)!

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2 Responses to Made in America: 3 fun facts about American furniture

  1. Dermot Mc Nally says:

    This is quite a fascinating piece on American Furniture. There are styles and pieces of furniture here (particularly the chest on chest on chest) which I have never seen before. In Ireland we have quite a different tradition. And for reasons I’ve never understood, the American furniture tradition and the Irish furniture tradition do not seem to have as much overlap in the world of furniture, as our respective traditions might do in say music. [ I can say this with some confidence as I come from a furniture family, which has made furniture for over half a century (see us at] Of the hundreds of shops I have visited in Ireland over the years, I have never seen a piece like the chest on chest on chest. Maybe you should export them?

  2. Jane Jones says:

    How exquisite American furniture by Baker Company! Thank-you for this information!

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