High chest attributed to Joseph Hosmer’s Shop in Concord. Cherry, birch, eastern white pine. Cherry bonnet-top Highboy on cabriole legs, ending in pad feet. Lower case has one long and three short drawers. Top section has four long and three short drawers. Chalk signature of J. Hosmer, a furniture maker in Concord, 18th century.
In the upper case: The one-board cherry sides are dovetailed to the pine bottom and to the pine top board, which does not butt the back but stops 1-1/2 inches away. The sides are held by the uppermost backboard and scrolled face board which are set into rabbets and nailed through the sides. Four other lapped backboards, chamfered on the inside and thinner than the top board, are let into a rabbet cut in the sides and nailed. The vertical dividers for the central small drawer are secured to the top divider with a half dovetail and are nailed through the inner face into the edge of the scrolled facing board with one large and one small nail. The cherry drawer dividers are let into the case sides with shouldered half dovetails and are not covered with a facing strip.
The three small upper drawers ride on a dustboard that stops 3-1/2 inches before the backboard. The bottom long drawer rides on the bottom board; the other three drawers ride on supports nailed to the case sides.
In the lower case: The pine backboard and cherry sides are tenoned to the leg posts and secured with two pins at each joint. The skirt is tenoned to the front legs. Three medial supports for the lower drawer rest in notches cut in the top edge of the skirt and are tenoned into the back. Two vertical pine boards faced with a cherry strip flank the middle drawer, secured to the edge of the front skirt with a single dovetail and tenoned into the backboard. A 1-1/2 inch wide cherry board is dovetailed to the tops of the front leg posts; the mid-molding rests on this and on the tops of the case sides, and the upper case is supported by the molding.
Each drawer rides on the drawer bottom, which is nailed to the lower edge of the sides and back and to the rabbeted front. The top edges of the drawer sides are chamfered on the inside and outside and are 1/2 inch lower than the top edge of the front; the top of the drawer back is chamfered on the outside only. The drawer fronts are cut with a thumbnail molding and lipped on the sides and top.
Many of the drawers have chalk construction marks, including carets and numbers. In addition, the long drawers in the upper case have names inscribed on the backs: top drawer, “John Wood Jo John”; second drawer, “Benjamin Wood” superimposed on “J J J Hosmer”; third drawer, “Wood Silas” and the scratched conjoined initials “JB”; fourth drawer, “Silas Wood.” The carved drawer in the upper case also has a chalk drawing, perhaps of a bottle.
On the upper case, three additional guides are added to the drawer support on the proper right side and shims added at the back of the top supports. Several small boards are added inside the lower case as guides for the upper drawer. A vertical glue block is added on the proper left side at the back leg; another one added at the front is now missing. The case has been refinished.
The high chest bears a number of chalk inscriptions, including the names John Wood, Benjamin Wood, Silas Wood, and, provocatively, “J. Hosmer.” All the names can be identified with Concordians born between 1735 and 1756. The inscriptions are rather casual and have the appearance of someone practicing letters. The high chest has no recorded history of ownership before the present century; however, a desk and bookcase made in the same shop survives with an excellent history in the Old Manse in Concord. This desk and bookcase, one of the few owned in Concord before 1800 and the only one known to survive, is listed in the probate inventory of William Emerson (1743-1776), where it is valued at 60 shillings. Nineteenth-century inscriptions on the back identify the desk as “Dr. Ripley’s,” that is, Ezra Ripley (1751-1841), William Emerson’s successor to the Concord pulpit. Ripley married Emerson’s widow in 1780; the desk remained at the Manse through the nineteenth century and was acquired with the property by The Trustees of Reservations in 1938. The drawer construction of the Museum high chest and the Manse desk and bookcase is identical, down o the distinctive brasses.
The Museum’s chest-on-chest (1994.60) and high chest differ in too many details to support an attribution to the same shop. There are no correspondences in the molding profiles or in the shaping of the pediments, the bottoms of the upper cases are framed differently, the lower cases of the chest-on-chest and Manse desk and bookcase are framed differently, and the drawer construction is different. They do, however, have some element in common. The carved fans are quite similar; however, because they are so simple in the execution, requiring no specialized tools or skills, they do not serve well as a diagnostic feature. The two cases also share some construction features: the upper cases are framed in the same way, with the upper backboard and scrolled face board functioning as structural elements bracing the sides; and both have a two-part cornice molding. Both details are found on Boston furniture made in the 1730s and 1740s but not after midcentury; the Concord pieces in this respect are twenty years behind the time. The drawer construction of the high chest is similarly reminiscent of Boston work of the early eighteenth century.
If the chest-on-chest (1994.60) is accepted as the work of Joseph Hosmer’s shop, it leaves unanswered the question of authorship for the high check (and the desk and bookcase at the Old Manse). One possibility is John Hosmer (1752-1836) who was a cabinetmaker and farmer–the might account for the “J. Hosmer” signature–and another is Ammi White, although the latter may not have been born until 1760 and therefore would have been too young to have made the Manse desk and bookcase.
1996 catalog compares chest-on-chest (1994.60) with high chest (F2535).