CR 4: "Notes" on Colonial Revival Movement:-- Books on Colonial Antiques

Directory to "Notes" on the Colonial Revival Movement, a Series of Six Narratives Detailing How Colonial Furniture Design Became So Popular in Amateur Woodworking

CR 1: Before 1876: The Rise of Nativism

CR 2: 1876: The Cententennial Exhibtion in Philadelphia

CR 3: After 1876: Antique Hunters

CR 4: After 1876: Books on Colonial Antiques

CR 5: The Rise of of the Material Culture Museums

CR 6: CR in the Industrial Arts Movement and Amateur Woodworking

CR 7: The Colonial Revival Today

CR 4: After 1876: Books on Colonial Antiques

First track on CR:

In 1906, "What", rhetorically ask authors Robert and Elizabeth Shackleton, The Quest for the Colonial, page 12, "makes Colonial"?

Theoretically, there is no reason, except the powerful one that the old was all hand-made, why the furniture of to-day is not fully as beautiful as that of the past. But it is not, any more than the churches of to-day equal the ancient cathedrals. In such cases it is matter of fact, not of theory. The graceful lines and proportions, in furniture, are mainly of a bygone era, save in the cases of successful imitation. And, in addition to the actual grace, the actual beauty, there is the charm of association with an interesting past. The tender grace of a day that is dead lingers about the stately fireirons of the time of Washington or the beautiful chair which was used in a house of Revolutionary fame. The charm once felt, it never disappears.

Another author contemporary to the Shackleton's is Joy Wheeler Dow, American Renaissance W T Comstock, 1904, page 125 What prompted the Shackletons to write was a book published in 1891, a decade and half earlier, Colonial Furniture of New England, by a medical doctor, Irving W. Lyon. Colonial Furniture of New England was a revelation to collectors, and families with inherited colonial furniture. They were surprised and pleased to be informed that antiques found in New England had actually been made there, and to learn the correct names and original uses of many of their objects. NYE, ALVAN CROCKER: Colonial Furniture. New York: William Hel- burn, Inc., 1895. $14.00. Consists of scale drawings, measured and drawn from antique examples of Colonial furniture, and sketches by the author. Luke Vincent Lockwood followed with Colonial Furniture of America -- 1902 Lyon, Lockwood, and their generation of furniture historians,antiquarians, as well as collectors, were like pioneers, in a sense exploring uncharted country, relying on intuition for identifying and appraising the hand-made colonial furniture that they located. Lyon and Lockwood, discovered that the regional character of early American craftsmanship was the primary source of its appeal. Many of the pioneer collectors who built the great public collections were antiquarians and regionalists who sought the convergence of art, history, and place. Source: William N. Hosley Regional Furniture/Regional Life SINGLETON, ESTHER: The Furniture of Our Forefathers. New York: Doubleday, Page et Company, 1906. $4.00. Descriptions of the furniture of the Colonists, including records of inventories giving interesting and clear pictures of the mode of living of that period. Illustrated with photographic reproductions and sketches. Wallace Nutting (and Franklin Gottshall) Nutting, Wallace. Furniture of the Pilgrim century, 1620-1720: including colonial utensils and hardware - Page 180 by Wallace Nutting - 1921 - 580 pages The word wainscot as generally used today is sought to be confined in meaning to a wall completely paneled to the ceiling, as distinct from a dado, ... Furniture treasury (mostly of American origin) All periods of American furniture with some foreign examples in America, also American hardware and household utensils. Framingham, Mass.: Old America company, 1928. Author: Gloag, John, 1896- Title: Time, taste and furniture Publication date: 1925.

Reaction against the recent immigrants from Europe, though not generally explicit, underlay to some extent the work of Henry and Greatorex, the writings of Cook, and the activity of the collectors


Social life was cultivated and enjoyed, and the distinctions of class were observed and acquiesced in, apparently without any loss of self-respect or happiness to those who acknowledged the refined, the wealthy, and the intellectual superiority of others.... Many are questioning today whether, in exchanging this condition of society for a more levelling democracy, we have made any true progress in the higher life.

Source: Eliza Greatorex, et al, Old New York from the Battery to BloomingdaleNew York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1875
(Curiously, this public domain book is not online;


"It is to be hoped that no one will let himself be laughed out of his fancy for a good piece of 'old American furniture,' to the extent of letting it slip out of his hands. ...".

Clarence Cook, The House Beautiful, page 164

. Furthermore, the educated classes feared that their native America would disappear beneath the cultures of the immigrants. One reaction to that specter was to reject the newcomers altogether, and to try to impede their progress up the ladder of security and success. Another-possible only for the very rich-was physical isolation in a large house situated far from the tenements. A more feasible solution for most was to create psychological distance from recent immigrants by emphasis on a family's presence in America for generations. Organizations like the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Colonial Dances served this purpose; and for the small group of serious collectors, so did possession of American antiques.

Not everybody shared the collectors' perceptions. They were well ahead of most of their nineteenth-century contemporaries in appreciating the soundness and beauty of American antiques. European culture went back so much further that many Americans unquestioningly considered European antiques more valuable. The very rich lived "among foreign furnishings and foreign works of art, in as great a variety and profusion as could he managed."10 Therefore, wrote Clarence Cook,

    "It is to be hoped that no one will let himself be laughed out of his fancy for a good piece of `old American furniture,' to the extent of letting it slip out of his hands. ..."'i

One of the major revelations of Dr. Irving Lyon's book on New England furniture was that the fine pieces he illustrated had been made in New England, and not imported from abroad.

The colonial revival, which became visible in both furniture and architecture in the 1880s (and which has been with us ever since), included and affected the attitudes described above. It was an important part of the milieu in which the collectors of the i 88os and i 89os lived, and it helps explain the gradual growth of enthusiasm for American antiques among Americans at large. It encompassed far more, however, than the exhibitions of antiques and relics, the writings of Clarence Cook, and the paintings of E. L. Henry. Any manifestation of "colonial" design-genuine or ersatz, good or bad-was included in the colonial revival.

One ironic aspect was the factory-made "colonial" furniture that appeared in the i88os. Since arts-and-crafts reformers had often held up the handcraft traditions of earlier periods, including the colonial, as an example to contemporary cabinetmakers, many people began to think that things in an antique style would do just as well as the genuine article. But colonial-revival furniture often incorporated everything the reformers were protesting against: poor design and workmanship, low-grade wood, and lack of understanding of the style (or mixture of styles) being copied.

Many Americans were drawn to the colonial-revival movement by nostalgia, by a need to associate themselves with old, established families, or by eagerness to establish their good taste; most, however, didn't really care about design and construction. This lack of discrimination was less in evidence among tastemakers and designers who thought along arts-and-crafts lines. And it was rare among serious collectors, to whom genuineness was essential. The variation in degrees of insistence on genuine colonial work during the i88os and i 8qos is clearly illustrated in the order books of the cabinetmaker Ernest Hagen (now at the New-York Historical Society). Covering the years 188o to i886 at Hagen's firm, Meier & Hagen, these books provide a fascinating insight into upper- and upper-middle-class furnishing fashions in New York.

Tucked in among orders for chic new overstuffed chairs and divans are others related to a wide variety of furniture, including antiques. Some entries make it clear that besides procuring and restoring antique furniture, Meier & Hagen sometimes destroyed it. When antiques were not actually taken apart to provide old wood for new furniture, they were often repaired, recarved, or refinished past recognition.

The tendency during the late nineteenth century to lump together all handmade, pre-industrial age furniture has often been noted. The adjective "colonial" was used freely to embrace furniture made from the seventeenth century down to the first third of the nineteenth. In Hagen's order books, it apparently referred to colonial-revival pieces as well. The famous glassmaker and interior designer Louis Comfort Tiffany placed an order on May 7, 1885, for "io Maple Colonial Dining chairs." The accompanying sketches show ladder-back chairs with a high arched crest-definitely a colonial-revival design rather than a colonial one. Both Hagen's and Tiffany's customers were people of taste and means. Their use of antiques and antique-style furniture indicates that by the i 88os antiques had come to be not only acceptable but fashionable. Yet these people were different from the true collectors, for in their interiors, antiques and colonial-revival pieces were mixed with furnishings of other kinds to create "tasteful" settings.

The colonial revival was apparent at the next American world's fair after Philadelphia. A number of state buildings at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 were either copies of specific colonial structures or in the colonial style. Those interiors furnished with antiques were meant to look less like exhibits (as the New England kitchens had done) than genteel reception rooms in private houses. In their expanding role as symbols of taste and background, antiques had moved from the kitchen to the parlor. Owners of houses furnished with American antiques were more concerned with elegance than with anecdotal qualities. Antiques were by no means a major theme at the exposition. However, the office of Mrs. Potter Palmer, president of the exposition's Board of Lady Managers, provided a dramatic example of their rise in social status. Mrs. Palmer's own enormous turreted castle on Lake Michigan was eclectically furnished in the fashionable Moorish, Renaissance, and Louis XVI modes; but American chairs and tables of the Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Empire periods occupied her exposition office. The antiques, gathered by the women of New Jersey, radiated refinement-as they stood upon a vivid Victorian carpet beneath a ceiling festooned with fishnets. The Pennsylvania building, described as "practically a reproduction of Independence Hall, Philadelphia,"':' contained the Liberty Bell. Speaking of its symbolism upon its arrival at the fair, ex-Prcsidcnt Benjamin Harrison reminded his countrymen that the absorption of immigrants was part of the American tradition: This old bell was made in England, but it had to be re-cast in America before it was attuned to proclaim the right of self-government and the equal rights of men, and therein it was a type of what our institutions have been doing for that great teeming throng of immigrants from all lands who heard its voice over the great waters, and came here subjects to be re-cast into free American citizens.14 At the end of the nineteenth century, however, collectors and devotees of American antiques were seeking not to educate immigrants but to establish their own social superiority over the newer arrivals. In his novel Our Mutual Friend, published in 1865, Charles Dickens had reflected this attitude toward antiques as it existed in England. He described the Veneerings, a couple possessed of immense but new riches: ... in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the new coat of arms to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and upstairs again to the new fire-escape, all things were in a state of high varnish and polish. And what was observable in the furniture, was observable in the Veneerings-the surface smelt a little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.'

9. Impact of Great Exhibition of 1851: "Over-the-Top" Design

    The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations of 1851 was the first of the international exhibitions which punctuated the second half of the 19th century.

    All the better-known cabinetmaking firms felt obliged to participate as a matter of prestige, with the sole object of winning an award. Although these spectacular exhibition pieces shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and its international successors both in Europe and in the United States led to the production of a class of furniture made for display and which at first sight may seem remote from furniture in daily use, they were the main source of Victorian taste in interior furnishings and decoration.

    Exhibited, illustrated and commented on, these pieces of technical virtuosity were intended to attract as purchasers persons of immense wealth or museums where they would be displayed for the edification of the public who then furnished their houses with smaller and much less costly versions. An imposing Adam style satinwood cabinet richly decorated with a marquetry of colored woods, gilt mounts and Wedgwood plaques made by the short-lived firm of Wright and Mansfield caused considerable interest at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 where it won English honors (Figure 477, but not pictured -- instead, from the 1876 Centenial Exhibtion in Philadelphia, is shown below on the left.) .

    No doubt this cabinet, which belongs to the Victoria and Albert Museum, encouraged the use of plaques for decoration in the general furniture trade as well as the making of a great quantity of eighteenth century English reproductions, which were found in many late Victorian drawing rooms. Some of the pieces were virtual facsimiles; others simply made a passing allusion.

The domestication of culture


Fifty-one countries brought their art manufactures to the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876 to celebrate the anniversary of American inde­pendence.

Before the exhibition closed almost ten million visitors saw them.

The domestication of culture means that the capability of all Americans -- regardless of social class to acquire the skills to reconstruct the range of furniture, art, music that comprise the corpus of American culture.

Examples of tutors of American taste are Charles Eastlake, Clarence Cook.

Examples of popularizing America's cultural heritage of furniture are women's and shelter magazines, the collectors Irving W Lyon, Lockwood, and Nutting, the museums and exhibits, such as the American Wing of the New York Metroplitan Museum of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, Winterthur, Index of American Design, .

Movements designed to encourage a culture of amateur woodworking are Gustav Stickley and the Arts and Crafts Movement, William Price and Rose Valley, and Arthur Wakeling's National Homeworkshop Guild.

Examples of creating museum quality speciifications for reconstructing American antique classics are the author's of woodworker's manuals, Herman Hjorth, William W. Klenke, John Gerald Shea, Lester Margon.

h4> 22. Taste as Cultural Capital A collector of American furniture and other antiques in the Hartford, CT, area during the late nineteenth century, Dr. Irving W. Lyon (1840-1896) set down the fruits of his research in 1891, in The Colonial Furniture of New England. Lyon surveyed colonial furnishings in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Lyon's zeal as a collector stemmed from a genealogical interest in ancestors, particularly those of his mother's family, the Phillipses of the prestigious Phillips Andover and Phillips Exeter Academies of New England. His investigations about his New England forebears extended into curiosity about the life and culture -- especially colonial New England ceramics and furniture -- of the times in which they had lived.

    Lyon's conclusions about the homes of the forefathers have held up startlingly well. The Colonial Furniture of New England was so carefully researched and thoughtfully crafted that it remains a standard reference today-an extraordinary accomplishment, considering the sophisticated research and the technological aids available to the modern student of furniture.No other early furniture scholar's work has the same continuing validity.

Source: Elizabeth Stillinger, The Antiquers: The Lives and Careers, the Deals Were Responsible for the Changing Taste in American Antiques, 1850-1930 New York: Knopf, 1980, pages 69-78

The Centennial year, 1876 -- celebrated locally and nationally, created both patriotism, and enthusiasm about things historical -- evidently was the impetus Lyon needed to launch an ambitious have started his interest in colonial furniture and decoration. While his initial interest was ceramics -- including trips to England for research and purcheases -- he settled on furniture, and by 1884 he was writing a book about native New England furniture. According to Stillinger, "Lyon was aware of Cook's advocacy of the desirability of antiques over cheap home furnishings."

    The Colonial Furniture of New England was joyfully received by collectors and inheritors of old furniture, because there had been no previous reference for "verification, identification, and, in numerous instances, for the distinct name itself." The book's great. revelation was that "far the greater part of the old oaken chests and cupboards found in New England are of New England manufacture. All collectors of these articles are aware that their origin is generally declared to be foreign, customarily English." The author's pioneering research had confounded the conventional wisdom.

Lyon's book received an immediate and enthusiastic response -- Stillinger surveyed the contemporary reviews archived at Winterthur -- Lyon himself received many letters from collectors and others interested in American antique furniture, all of which are neatly pasted into a scrapbook. Next to Lyon, Luke Vincent Lockwood (1872-1951) was a leader of the generation of self-made scholars in the Colonial decorative arts. He wrote of the classic Colonial Furniture in America-- published in 1901 -- when he was only twenty-nine. Lockwood also collected furniture and promoted museums to collect. Lockwood played key roles in the Hudson-Fulton exhibition, in the subsequent Bolles purchase by the Metropolitan, and in the later installation of period rooms at the Brooklyn Museum. For many years Lockwood was the expert on American antique furniture. Source: Elizabeth Stillinger, The Antiquers: The Lives and Careers, the Deals Were Responsible for the Changing Taste in American Antiques, 1850-1930 New York: Knopf, 1980, various pages.

high brow/middle brow/low brow

Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow/ Lowbrow: the Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988, pages 176-177. Lawrence Levine link to notes from lawrence levine highbrow lowbrow on sentiments toward colonial revival, assimilation, melting pot, cultural pluralism covered by Susan Hegeman, Patterns for America: Modernism and the Concept of Culture Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999

Had the later part of the Victorian era followed Morris' famous rule, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful",it might have been spared much of the censure heaped upon it for its incredible lack of taste.

GOSPEL OF "THE BEAUTIFUL" The gospel of "the beautiful" arrived in America in 1872 in the form of a book, Hints on Household Taste, by Charles Lock Eastlake. Published in England earlier, in 1868, Eastlake's ideas soon became influential and were seized upon by every American with any pretense to culture, creating a demand for the Eastlake style of furniture, even though it was not produced in America.

the American writer, Clarence Cook, published his influential manifesto about aestheticism in the household, The House Beautiful, in 1878 following the appearance in Britain of the titles published collectively by Macmillan as the 'Art at Home' series.'

In the USA, Janet Ruetz-Rees's Home Decoration of 1881 opened that decade, while the reforming zeal of other American Aesthetic Movement enthusiasts filled the pages of a series of publications entitled Artistic Houses in 1893 and 1894.8 While each individual text had a slightly different agenda, the publications of the 1870s and 1880s on both sides of the Atlantic shared a commitment to the concepts of good taste, good workmanship and the importance of `art' in the home. In the USA, a series of journals, among them Godey's Lady's Book, Peterson's and The Household, added their contributions to this programme of reform in the domestic interior.9

In 1897 the Americans, novelist Edith Wharton and architect and decorator, Ogden Codman, shifted the emphasis away from what had by that date degenerated from the initial commitment to taste reform into a promotion of the house as a site for fashionable statements towards a plea for a return to order, to a respect for the architectural context and, above all, for a return to Classicism.10

It coincided with the dominance of that same architectural style at Chicago's Columbian exhibition of 1893 and with the Colonial Revival of those years, a highly nationalistic architectural and decoration movement that looked back to eighteenth-century, American neo-classicism.

    To meet the public demand for this non-existent style, the furniture trade, after studying the sketches which Eastlake had drawn to illustrate his ideas of simplicity and honesty in design and construction, set its machines to work and produced woeful parodies. Source: Louise Ade Boger Complete Guide to Furniture Styles New York: Scribner's, 1969, pages 416-418: Eastlake-influenced American Furniture, 1870-1890: Catalogue of an Exhibition November 18, 1973- . MJS Madigan - 1973 - Hudson River Museum Related articles - Web Search - Library Search

[-- probably because of America's achievement of almost universal literacy by 1900 -- means that taste preferences -- furniture, art, music -- became a right of all classes of Americans.]