Holley, NY: [1830-1835]. Small 4to notebook (approx. 8 x 6 1/4 in.) bound in original half calf over marbled boards, containing approximately 80 leaves with manuscript entries and designs composed and drawn in ink and pencil; some blank pages scattered throughout. Approximately 50 designs, including fully realized furniture styles with measurements, some sketches or details of design elements (table legs, column styles, acanthus leaf patterns, etc.), some more abbreviated images of design features. Dates on some of the drawings indicate the notebook was used between 1830 and 1833. One manuscript entry includes a grid-style list of prices for joints in various woods; another describes the construction of a portable desk, giving the cost of various additions to the basic design, such as a hollow for pens, a square drawer, and a book rest. Another 10 pp. offer approximately 18 recipes for stains and varnishes. Three loose scraps containing designs laid in. Moderate wear, dampstaining to endpapers, otherwise very good. The letterpress broadside advertises Richardson's business, and reads, in part: "Holley / Cabinet / Ware House. / C. Richardson, / would inform the people of Holley, and vicinity, / that he still continues the cabinet making business 3 doors south of Perry's Tavern..." (Brockport: A. Edwards, Printer, ). The broadside measures 14 x 11 in., printed in various sizes and styles of type, with a central composite image of period furniture, including a dresser, chairs, settee, and wash stand, the text within a thick ornamental border. Old fold lines, some foxing, else a nice example. This broadside appears to be unrecorded. A very faint (contemporary?) pencil notation on the front endpaper of the notebook reads "Chase Richardson, 1832." This is most likely the same Richardson who had the broadside printed, given that some of the illustrations on the broadside appear to be taken from drawings in the accompanying manuscript. [Records from Hillside Cemetery, Clarendon, Orleans County, NY, just 3 miles from Holley, NY, mention a Chase Richardson (1810-1839).] Both items are housed in recent cloth clamshell boxes with gilt stamped leather labels. Item #61406
At the beginning of the 19th century, the furniture industry in America saw a sudden shift of its epicenter from Philadelphia to New York. Dubbed the "London of America," it was thought at the time that New York would in fact be the leader in business in the United States. To facilitate the cabinetmaking industry a new directory for cabinetmakers in New York was published in 1805 and various guides were issued helping craftsmen to price their furniture. Styles were elegant and influenced highly by the European furniture which was also being imported into New York. Phyfe, Allison, and Ash produced some of the finest examples of furniture from that period. However, although the high styles of the time may have been determined by these well known cabinetmakers, others imitated and added their own interpretations.
John L. Scherer, in his exhibition catalog "New York Furniture: The Federal Period, 1788-1825," [Albany: 1988] states: "Eventually cabinetmakers in upstate towns and villages who picked up New York City styles rendered their own versions. Using local woods, this furniture evokes a spirit of the time with a dash of country charm. As trends in New York State furniture moved upstate, they also spread across the country. New York remained in the forefront of furniture design and production until the end of the century." This fine group of material illustrates an 1830's provincial craftsman working in the newly fashionable Empire-style designs. Among the more fully executed designs in this notebook are a washstand, stool, dressing tables, and secretaries, each with detailed measurements. Some are titled, such as "French Bureau," "Grecian Card Table," and "Portable Secretary." Others may have been sketched during a trip to York, Ontario (now Toronto), including "York Bureau No. 1 and 2." Richardson was aware of the developments in furniture design in other parts of the state. One of the notes beside a drawing of a "Dress Beauro [sic] Plain" mentions what the same item sold for at Meads & Alvords. [John Meads & William Alvord operated a successful cabinet-maker's shop in Albany, NY until Alvord's death in 1847, according to a "Bi-centennial History of Albany" published by W.W. Munsell in 1886.] The notebook also includes details of carving designs, such as foliage, scrolls, turning profiles, and volutes. In the back of the volume are several recipes for varnishes and stains, some intended to imitate more expensive materials such as mahogany, curly maple, and marble. For example, to imitate birds eye maple, one had only to mix "cuprite two shades darker than white lead & chrome yellow & V. Red [plus] Raw Terra de Sena" using a quill and fingers as tools. Many of these recipes are credited to other cabinet-makers residing in Ontario and northern New England. A recipe for white varnish came from John Bradshaw of Waterson (sp?), a stain for Rose Wood Chairs from Silas Alden of Boston, a German Polish recipe from Clark H. Ober of New Ipswich, etc. While information and documentation for furniture makers in the larger cities is often obtainable, information on smaller, local artisans is much more scarce.
Both items were inherited by Gertrude (Cole) Simmons (1895-1985) of an old Holley-area family. Her grandmother was Ellen Maria (Richardson) Cowles (1838-1873), who may have been the daughter or niece of the cabinet maker C. Richardson.