Archives: 2023

Editor's Welcome
Moses Crawford: Tennessee’s Earliest Cabinetmaker Revealed

C. Tracey Parks
Fig. 1: Corner cupboard by Moses Crawford, 1790-1800, Knox County, Tennessee. Walnut with yellow pine and tulip poplar; HOA: 101-1/4”, WOA: 56-1/2”, DOA: 23-1/2”. Collection of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), Acc. 5422.

In 2008, MESDA acquired a monumental, two-piece walnut Tennessee corner cupboard (Figure 1). With strong architectural appeal and distinctive carved elements, the cupboard exemplifies the highly competent level of cabinetmaking available on Tennessee’s frontier at the close of the eighteenth century and reflects the significant role that Scots-Irish craftsmen from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia played in furnishing settlers and artisans to East Tennessee. The corner cupboard is part of a distinctive group of furniture made for patrons who settled in and near Knox County, Tennessee, in the final decades of the eighteenth century. Coming primarily from Augusta, Botetourt, and Rockbridge counties in Virginia, many of the families established themselves in the fertile Grassy Valley, about five miles north of the town of Knoxville (Figure 2). Chief among them was the family of William Anderson (1758-1830), who at one time owned MESDA’s corner cupboard. William Anderson came from Rockbridge County, … Continued

Fry and Jefferson Revisited

Henry Taliaferro

Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson’s Map of the Inhabited Part of Virginia, containing the whole of the Province of Maryland with Part of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and North Carolina, first published by Thomas Jefferys in London in 1753 (Figure 1) is one of the most celebrated maps in American history.[1] [2] Much of the map’s luster comes from its association with Thomas Jefferson, the son of one of the map’s makers. Among its other distinctions, it is the “basic cartographical document for Virginia of the eighteenth century [and] the first map of Virginia by Virginians.”[3] It is in fact one of the stellar cultural artifacts to issue from colonial Virginia. While much has been written about Fry and Jefferson’s map, most of the literature does little more than echo earlier commentary. The exception is Cooley Verner’s definitive essay, published in Imago Mundi in 1967.[4] In the decades since, further information … Continued

Documentary Evidence for Furniture Forms and Terminology in Charleston, South Carolina, 1670-1820

Bradford L. Rauschenberg, Ph.D.

Of the vast amount of furniture that existed in Charleston, South Carolina, during the Colonial and early Federal periods, only a small percentage survives today for us to study. In contrast, the documentary record—inventories, wills, account books, newspapers, shipping returns, letters, and other sources—offers significant evidence for all types of furniture that were present in the Carolina Lowcountry—both vernacular and high style, imported and made locally. Those resources yield rich information, such as dateable terminology, that in turn aids in the analysis of surviving furniture as well as all that is lost. This study provides documentary evidence for furniture forms and terminology in Charleston before 1820 and presents chronological evidence for their usage. It is hoped that the information provided will enable furniture historians to more fully understand the scope and variety of furniture that existed in Charleston and enable them to more accurately reconstruct furniture consumption and trade … Continued

Research Note: Frederick Kemmelmeyer—From Hessian Soldier to American Artist

A. Nicholas Powers
Fig. 20: “Charlotte Marsteller” (d. 1871) attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer (w.1788-1816); probably Alexandria, VA; circa 1803. Oil on canvas; HOA: 29-3/4”, WOA: 24-1/4”. Collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, acc. 56.32.

American museums and private collectors have been acquiring paintings by Frederick Kemmelmeyer for nearly seventy years, and his works have been reproduced in books and articles—yet the man behind the brush has proven elusive to researchers. This research note presents recently uncovered information that is hoped will aid future scholars in advancing our understanding of Frederick Kemmelmeyer’s life and career. One of the first scholars to pursue a comprehensive study of Frederick Kemmelmeyer (b.1752–1753–d.1820–1825) was E. Bryding Adams in her January 1984 article for The Magazine ANTIQUES titled “Frederick Kemmelmeyer, Maryland Itinerant Artist.”[1] At the time she wrote her article, Adams was able to assemble eighteen signed or attributed works and one engraving ascribed to Kemmelmeyer. Since then, curators and scholars have aided in the discovery and/or attribution of more Kemmelmeyer paintings, as well as contributing to our knowledge of the artist’s life, most notably Carolyn Weekley at the Colonial … Continued

2013 Editor’s Welcome

Slab Sideboard by Christian Burgner; Greene County, TN; 1840-1860. Cherry, walnut, and tulip poplar; HOA: 58-1/2", WOA: 68", DOA: 27". MESDA Acc. 5660.4.

The first year of the MESDA Journal as an online publication has been a success on every level. Readership has quadrupled when compared to the journal’s largest annual circulation as a printed publication. Distribution grew internationally from two countries to over sixteen. Domestically, we’ve expanded readership to every state in the country. Potential articles are being submitted for consideration in previously unheard of numbers. All of this amazing growth occurred while costs to produce the journal have been dramatically reduced. Many of you have generously supported the journal through your donations. Thank you for your enthusiastic embrace of the online platform and for spreading the word about the reinvigorated MESDA Journal. This next issue is shaping up to build on all the accomplishments of the first year. Many of you have heard me comment that I am very interested in identifying new approaches to digital research and would like to … Continued

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