I have spent a good portion of this Independence Day thinking about something signed in Philadelphia in the eighteenth century. No, it’s not what you think. It’s Edward Evans, not John Hancock et al. It’s 1707, not 1776. It is a walnut escritoire, the earliest documented signed and dated piece of Philadelphia furniture. (Note: if you click on that last link search 1958-468 to get our curator’s write up and photos of the piece.)
I will be building and presenting this piece at the next Working Wood in the Eighteenth Century Symposium. It looks like this coming year’s theme will be desks. We are pretty excited about this really early piece of American cabinet work and another impressive example from our collection that we’ll reveal in the coming weeks. Outside speakers and additional pieces are still being worked out, so look out for more information soon.
I look forward to sharing many interesting details about the escritoire with you online and at the symposium. The construction techniques, workmanship, multitude of secret compartments, and design are all pretty fascinating and a bit different from the “normal” ways of working we like to imagine existed. For now, I need to figure this thing out and start making some sawdust and shavings. Really, I need to figure this out – I confess, I spent two full days with this behind the scenes and still managed to miss a secret compartment!
Here is my version of the piece so far:
Best wishes to all of you on this day of celebration and reflection.