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American William & Mary Furniture

Historical Background

Naturally, in date American furniture trailed the earliest English examples of William & Mary furniture; for we should not only allow time for a certain style to become sufficiently established and popular enough for the likelihood of copying but also a short period for it to be transferred and become popular. This interval would considerably vary, according to conditions and closeness of relations. At some periods and in some places some American furniture of a new style might be made shortly after its original appearance, but we must be rather careful not to date the general product, the "run", of a particular style too early.

Early 18th Century Chairs
Early 18th Century Chairs.

We should also remember that, as has been said, each mode would endure later in America than in England, for it would not so soon be superseded by the succeeding type. We can only date according to known probabilities, for very little American furniture is "documented" and family traditions are so notoriously untrustworthy as often to be ridiculous. We will find wills, descriptions, and other surviving records a reliable aid, and, in later periods, advertisements.

American William & Mary Furniture

William and Mary Highboy
William and Mary Highboy.

The major influence on the American version of this style was the incorporation of oriental design motifs with chinoiserie decoration becoming extremely popular among wealthy colonists in the major centres of cabinet making, Boston and New York.

Maple Wood Butterfly Table
Maple Wood Butterfly Table.

The main types of furniture in demand during the early 18th century in America were highboys and lowboys, butterfly tables, easy chairs, mixing tables, fall front desks, splay legged tables, and high cane backed chairs. The C-scroll and S-scroll also became important decorative motifs particularly on the crest rails and matching stretchers of dining and other chairs.

Fall Front Desk made of Walnut
Fall Front Desk made of Walnut.

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