MethodologyClues to George MasonPublic SpacesDomestic SpacesInterpretive PeriodRecommended ObjectsArt BeverageFood ServiceFurnitureHeatingDecorationUtensilsFile NamesShort titlesCredits



Furniture enabled the rituals of daily life. It provided surfaces upon which to work, to eat, and to display one's belongings. It allowed one to sit with others to share a cup of tea or the light of a candle. It raised one's sleeping surface off the floor, often in a style that displayed wealth while providing warmth and privacy. It denoted a genteel awareness of hygiene and one's appearance. It reflected light. It regulated the passing of time. It stored, often under lock and key, the multitude of belongings, large and small, which eased the course of everyday existence.

In elite households, the quantity, variety, style, materials, and finish of the furniture conveyed messages about status, wealth, and one's participation in the theater of gentility. Elite homeowners could presumably afford any furniture form that was desired, with the style, material, and finish more or less under their control. Predicated upon these assumptions, the inclusion or exclusion of certain furniture forms and the specifics of descriptions found in period documents also conveyed messages about personal choice and taste.

Unlike some of their contemporaries, the Mason family does not seem to have placed inordinate importance upon the ownership of furniture, in either quality or quantity. The inventory evidence shows that although their homes were more than adequately furnished, they did not choose to have every type of furniture form available nor to have those they did own always in the newest styles nor most expensive materials and finishes. In terms of quantities of furniture, their inventories show households with numbers which consistently come in at average or below average for Rural Elite Inventories (REI).

As to the furnishings at Gunston Hall, an examination of the scant surviving evidence found in extant furnishings and a small body of documentary material reveals a household furnished with items which seem generally in keeping with the larger family pattern. George Mason, like many of his peer group, seems to have acquired his furniture from a number of sources. Some pieces were apparently made locally. Several groups of chairs with strong family histories were the products of regional or possibly local craftsmen. This is also the case with several tables. Another set of chairs is possibly Scottish, while a card table is an English example. The bookcase mentioned in a Mason letter may well have been a piece custom-ordered through a British agent, while the desk and bookcase mentioned in the same letter was more likely a regional piece.

Undoubtedly, the most intriguing piece of surviving Mason furniture, and the one which separates George Mason from most of his contemporaries, is a chair fragment with what appear to be Chinoiserie motifs carved on the legs. It is believed by modern furniture scholars to have been produced by the team of Buckland and Sears the craftsmen responsible for the elaborate interior woodwork at Gunston Hall.(1) Was this chair one of a set meant to be used en suite with the Chinese room? The survival of two marble-topped side tables from Mt. Airy, another Buckland and Sears collaboration, further underscores the possibility of specially designed furniture--furniture intended to match the woodwork of the room in which it was placed.

There are, of course, still many unanswered questions about the furniture with which George Mason and his family lived. What impact did George Mason's marriage to Sarah Brent in 1780, have upon Gunston Hall's furniture? Did she bring furniture from her father's household? Did she desire new, more fashionable items? Just how much wear and tear had the Mason furniture, much of it in the house since the 1760s, withstood? How much emphasis should scholars place upon a 1781 letter in which Mason, writing about the family's response to advancing British troops, notes:

We have removed our Furniture, backwards & forwards, two or three times, upon different Alarms, by which it is very much damaged: great Part of it was pack'd up last Week, & sent to Maryland. . . .(2)

Did Mason literally mean the tables and chairs, or was he using the term “furniture” in the wider period sense which could be interpreted to mean the “furnishings” of the house, including breakable items like china and glassware? Did George Mason take advantage of his stay in Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention to shop for furnishings for his own home as well as the house being built by his son? What was the impact a multi-generational household upon the furniture at Gunston Hall? Were forms specific to children included? Did the presence of several married couples affect the types and numbers of certain types of furniture?

Lacking specific Mason evidence to address such questions, this report has drawn upon general period practice to address what impact these questions might have upon the furniture recommendations included here. Among the surviving pieces of furniture with strong family histories, there is little to suggest that George Mason made any major changes or additions to his household furniture during the decade of the 1780s. However, the architectural refurbishing of the first floor bedchamber, coupled with period practice which suggests that major life changes such as marriage often prompted purchases of furniture, opens the door for the interpretative inclusion of a few later pieces such as a wash stand, a dressing table, or a looking glass.

Taken altogether, the furniture recommended here for Gunston Hall, provides the framework for the rest of the household furnishings.(3) Furniture, second only to architecture, provides the clearest picture of George Mason's Gunston Hall, reflecting Mason's world view and providing valuable clues to his sense of self.


Desks are ubiquitous among the elite households studied. The form spoke silently about the literacy and education of the owner as well as of status and wealth. As repositories for valuables of all types, they provided lockable storage at a time when increased amounts of consumer goods were becoming a real factor in elite households. Unfortunately, most inventory takers failed to enumerate what was in desks, but in the few exceptional examples where the contents are listed, a variety of items occur.(4) Not surprisingly, writing utensils such as pen knives, ink powders, and pencils are found. Also listed are items related to personal appearance such as razors, combs, and shoe buckles.

Clues can also be found in other types of documents. Landon Carter, in a diary entry in 1766, records the removal of “29 pounds of tea in separate Canisters” from his bookcase to his desk as a result of his concern over a missing pound of tea. Even though the bookcase was apparently locked, Carter clearly felt that the desk provided a more secure storage area for this valuable household commodity.(5)

In addition to the expected books and papers and the various types of other household goods cited in inventories, desks often served as safes or hiding places for small valuables and money. This function was built in by the cabinetmaker in the form of one or more secret or hidden drawers. A clear example of this practice and the potential problems that it could cause is described in a 1776 letter regarding the administration of an estate:

. . . on my moving a desk and bookcase out of a chamber . . . I heard the rattling of money and aftr much search and with the assistance of a Cabinet maker we found in a secret place a small sum of hard money consisting of five half Joes & as much silver which together made upwards of thirty pounds. . . .(6)

Desks are often among the items specified in cabinetmakers' newspaper advertisements, as well as in notices for goods imported or sold at auction. In 1746, Annapolis cabinetmaker John Anderson, who described himself as a “Cabinet Maker and Carver, late from Liverpool,” included desks among “all Kinds of Furniture, which is made of Wood, belonging to a House” which he made “in the neatest, cheapest, and newest Mode.”(7) A year later, “Maple Desks” are among what appear to be a shipment of New England goods offered for sale in the Maryland capital.(8) In 1754, Gamaliel Butler notified the public that he had “engaged very good Workmen, in the CABINET-

WAY” and could supply them with “all Sorts of Cabinet-Work” including both desks and “Escrutores.”(9) The following year, Williamsburg cabinetmaker, Peter Scott, included desks among the goods he advertised to be sold at auction as he prepared to depart for England.(10) A particularly elaborate example was listed among the household furnishings of the Charles County, Maryland estate of Benjamin Fendall. Included in the newspaper advertisement was a listing for a mahogany desk and bookcase with “a Looking Glass Front.” In the inventory of Fendall's estate, this same item was valued at the substantial sum of 16.(11)

As the century progressed, desks and desks and bookcases continue to be among the items deemed important and valuable enough to merit specific listing by both cabinetmakers and others when advertising household furniture for sale in the Chesapeake region. Occasionally, these notices provide tantalizing descriptions suggesting the range of items offered. A 1777 notice in The Virginia Gazette listed “a neat Mohogany [sic] Desk and Book-Case” along with a range of other furnishings to be sold at auction by the owner.(12) In 1784, Alexandria merchants James and Dummer had for sale, together with a cargo of foodstuff probably imported from New England, “one genteel mahogany desk and book-case” as well as “several common desks.”(13)

These important pieces of furniture could also be ordered from Britain through the auspices of local merchants. The records of the Piscataway store of John Glassford and Company show that in 1769 a “Mahogany Desk & Book (uses best Mounting) with Silk Hangings” valued at 11 was among the items imported and that in 1773 a cargo included “1 Large Mahogany Desk & Book Case with Glass Doors & Carved frontspiece” costing 10.10.(14)

Desk forms occur in 100% of the elite inventories studied. Slightly more than 50% of the examples listed are undesignated as to form. Among the cited forms, Desk and Bookcases represent roughly a quarter of all desks listed and occur in half of Rural Elite Inventories (REI). Mahogany is listed in approximately 48% of examples when wood type is cited. Walnut is the second most common at 13.3% followed closely by black walnut at 11.6%. Among the family inventories, 100% include desk forms, with three citing desk and bookcases (ELBCK65, MASON86, MASON00) and one (MASON97) listing a “Mahogany desk and drawers”(15) which was probably a chest of drawers with a secretary (desk) drawer at the top.(16)

Desk forms are among the few types of furniture owned by George Mason for which any documentary evidence survives. Among the items purchased by Mason at the sale of furnishings from neighboring Belvoir in 1773 were a desk and bookcase for which he paid 15, an extremely low value for that form, and a desk costing 26. Condition, age, material, workmanship, or some combination of these factors is undoubtedly reflected in the price Mason paid for the desk and bookcase. The price of the second desk suggests that it may well have been a writing box or lap desk of some type, rather than a large piece of furniture.(17) Another reference occurs in a letter written by Mason to his son concerning material left behind when Mason attended the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He wrote, “. . . I believe he will find it among the loose

Papers on the right hand Division of the second Drawer in my Desk & Book Case, in the little Parlour. . . .”(18)

Frustratingly, one can only speculate about the use to which the Belvoir purchase was put. Surely an item of so little value did not find its place among the furnishings of the family's Little Parlor. It is probable that the Belvoir desk was relegated to use in an outbuilding—perhaps the school room, or that it was meant for use by one of Mason's older sons. It is unlikely that a man with Mason's diverse business affairs and substantial public involvement, with the copious correspondence and paper work generated by both arenas, would have waited until 1773 to acquire a desk and bookcase.


Desks:    1
Origin:    Regional
Date:    Circa 1750-1770
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Form:    Desk and Bookcase
Material:    Mahogany



Dressing, Washing, Sanitation Forms

The second half of the 18th century saw a gradually growing concern about questions of cleanliness and hygiene among the genteel segment of society. Emphasis on personal appearance came to be seen as one of the benchmarks of gentility. This concern led, in turn, to the more frequent occurrence in elite households of furniture forms, such as dressing tables, dressing glasses, and wash or basin stands, intended to aid in the proper public presentation of self.(19)

Dressing Tables, Dressing Glasses

Dressing tables were made in many forms, usually with one or more drawers intended to hold the myriad of small items from hair ribbons to razors necessary for putting together a pleasing and fashionable appearance.(20) Such tables were included, although not as frequently as other forms, among the specialized items advertised for sale by regional cabinetmakers. Dressing tables also were among the items of furniture ordered by Chesapeake gentry through their British agents, often with an accompanying glass. In 1757, George Washington received “a fine neat Mahogany Serpentine dressing Table with furniture Compl drawer Glass &c handl Locks and brass Work” which cost the substantial sum of 10.10.--.(21) A surviving serpentine front chest of drawers with a top drawer fitted out as a dressing table in the collection at Mount Vernon is believed to be the piece referred to in the invoice. Six years later, Robert Beverley ordered “1 neat dressing Table & looking Glass Mahogany” as part of the furnishings he was acquiring as he set up housekeeping shortly after his marriage.(22) Charles Carroll, Barrister, requested among the other items ordered through his agent, “1 Good Mahogany Beaureau wrought Furniture” and “1 Good Mahogany Dressing Glass wth Drawers at the Bottom.”(23)

Dressing glasses, also referred to as swing glasses, no doubt due to the freedom of the glass to swivel or swing between two upright supports, were a more common item in advertisements and merchants' inventories. These small glasses were intended to sit upon a flat surface, most often on a table or a chest of drawers. In August of 1765, William Lux included as part of the extensive list of goods just imported from London “Walnut framed Dressing Glasses with Drawers.”(24) Dressing glasses continue to appear sporadically among the imported goods offered by general merchants for sale in the region.

Occasionally, these advertisements provide clues to appearance and show that these glasses, often products of speciality shops in Britain, could be harbingers of style changes. James Ringgold, in October of 1784, noted in his advertisement that along with the textiles, dye stuffs, and haberdashery, he also offered “mahogany oval dressing glasses.”(25) The oval shape, so typical of the neoclassical, was just being introduced to American consumers after the Revolution. Annapolis cabinetmaker John Shaw also advertised imported dressing glasses in the new fashion, which by the early 1790s was well established. His advertisement noted that he had just received from London “URN DRESSING GLASSES, with drawers, oval and square; swing ditto, without drawers.”(26) The records of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson also show the ordering of a small number of this form in 1771 and 1772, including examples with drawers and “mahogany & gilt” swing types with a range of values, perhaps reflecting a difference in sizes.(27)

Inventory records show that 66% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI) include examples of dressing tables and/or dressing glasses. It is likely that the percentages would be higher if it were possible to determine whether some of the unspecified small tables and looking glasses were, in fact, used in combination to function as dressing tables and glasses. The period practice of covering and decorating dressing tables and glasses in swathes of textiles meant that, in reality, any small table with a looking glass that could be propped up or hung over it could be turned into a fashionable dressing combination. In 1783, Thomas Shippen, describing his bed chamber at Westover, noted that “my toilet which stands under a gilt framed looking glass, is covered with a finely worked muslin.”(28)

Dressing table forms occur in 60% of REI studied. These forms include dressing tables, a dressing desk (HLLDY67), and a chamber table (ADDSN75). Among the family inventories, four of five (80%) specify dressing tables. Only MASON63 does not list this form; however, the inventory does include four small pine tables, at least one of which could have been used with the one dressing glass listed.

Dressing glasses, small free-standing looking glasses, often with drawers, occur in 58% of REI. Again, four of five family inventories (80%) have this form. MASON00 has two pine dressing tables but no specified dressing glasses. However, his inventory includes two small looking glasses which might have hung on the wall above a dressing table.

When dressing tables and glasses are identified by material, mahogany is the most commonly cited wood type. The majority of the family inventory entries cite no wood types but do include dressing table examples of walnut, cherry, and pine.

The average number of examples of dressing tables in REI having these forms is 2.3; among the family group with dressing tables the mean is 2.5. The average number of dressing glasses in REI is 2.1 and in the family group the mean is 2.5.


Dressing Tables:    2-3
Origins:    Britain, Chesapeake
Dates:    2- 1750-1780; 1- 1784-1788
Styles:    Determined by origin and date
Materials:    Mahogany, walnut, cherry, or pine

Dressing Glasses:    3-4
Origins:    Britain
Dates:    2-3 1750-1787; 1- 1784-1788
Styles:    Determined by date
Materials:    Mahogany, mahogany and gilt, or mahogany with inlay

Washing Forms

With the increased emphasis on personal cleanliness as a mark of gentility, furniture forms intended to hold and highlight the presence of wash bowls and water containers began to make their appearance in Chesapeake households in the third quarter of the 18th century. The form was being made in England as early as the 1760s and presumably had widespread currency in Britain by the 1770s.(29) Much of the documentary record is silent on the presence of wash or basin stands in the Chesapeakebut inventory evidence records the form as early as 1749 in the inventory of Rawleigh Traverse in Stafford County, Virginia. Governor Botetourt's 1770 inventory included several examples and the form is found in several other 1770s inventories in the Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database. However, the majority of the examples cited in the database occur after 1780.(30)

Overall, the form occurs in 24% of REI and in 40% of the family group. The family examples are MASON86 and MASON00. Interestingly, MASON97, who might be expected to have the form, seems instead to have simply placed pitchers and basins on dressing tables. While it is unclear whether George Mason might have owned an example of this form prior to 1780, it is the type of small form which might have been added to the household after Mason's marriage to Sarah Brent in 1780 or following his stay in Philadelphia in 1787.

It is known from his son's recollections that Mason, perhaps for perceived reasons of health or cleanliness, washed his head daily.(31) According to John Mason, it was his father's habit to bathe his head “in cold water winter & summer, in an open porch every morning immediately after riseing.”(32) Although it is unlikely that a fashionable piece of furniture would have been left outside, it is quite probable that a slave might have carried a wash stand in and out as required. Mason's practice would seem to indicate a predisposition toward owning such forms.

Mahogany is the most commonly cited wood for washing forms, occurring in roughly 50% of the REI examples where material is cited. Both family examples are listed as mahogany.


Wash/Basin Stand:    1
Origin:    Chesapeake or Philadelphia
Date:    1770--1787
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Materials:    Mahogany


Sanitation forms, i.e., close stools, close stool chairs, necessary chairs, night tables, etc., occur in 36% of REI. None of the family group owned this form. It is possible that one of MASON63's smoking chairs or MASON00's easy chair was outfitted with a frame for a close stool pan. It is also possible that the corner chair with a probable George Mason history, currently known only from early 20th-century photographs, was used in this manner. However, without other documentation, these assumptions remain purely speculative; therefore, no examples of these forms are currently recommended.



Like most pieces of furniture in an 18th-century house, looking glasses fulfilled a multi-functional role. They were decorative, they aided the household occupants in presenting an acceptable public appearance, and perhaps most importantly, they reflected light. Newspaper advertisements and merchants' records make it clear that looking glasses came in a wide range of sizes, styles, and frames, some sold as individual pieces and others as pairs. Some were intended to be simply serviceable while others were meant to be dramatic decorative statements, reflecting not only images and light but the owners wealth and social status.

Account books which record merchants' orders provide insight into the variety of types and sizes of looking glasses that were offered for sale. Alexander Henderson, in his letterbook dating from 1760-1764, kept copies of the lists of goods he ordered for the Glassford store at Occoquan, Virginia. In the course of the four years covered by this volume, Henderson ordered six and a half dozen looking glasses for resale. Half of these were to have painted frames. One and a half dozen were to have walnut frames. The rest were not described by frame type but were differentiated by the prices Henderson wished to pay, which probably reflected size as well as finish.(33) Goods consigned to another Glassford store in 1761, included a box containing seventy looking glasses sorted by frame type and value, again probably reflecting size. Four dozen had painted frames, a dozen and a half had mahogany frames, and two individual glasses were ornamented with sconces. In addition, two glasses, apparently shipped without frames, were no doubt custom orders for clients with preexisting frames or needing insets for chimney overmantels.(34)

A decade later, the order book of the Maryland firm of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson recorded similar merchandise. In addition to painted frame looking glasses, the records include listings for looking glasses with mahogany frames decorated with gilt edges. Interestingly, most of the latter type were ordered as matching pairs in assorted sizes, including 24" x 14", 17" x 11", 18" x 12", 26" x 16", 28" x 18", and 30" x 18".(35) An order placed by the firm of John Norton & Sons in 1777 to be shipped “as soon as Trade is opened betwint [sic] Britain & America” included, in addition to painted and walnut frame looking glasses, a request for “2 neat large Glasses for middle sized Room @ 20 ea” and “2 do small @ 10.”(36)

Such diversity of form and finish was frequently found within the same household. Charles Carroll, the Barrister, within a few years of each other in the mid-1750s, bought, through his London agents, a “plain walnut fframe [sic] Looking Glass,” as well as “1 Gilt Framed Looking Glass of the Plain fassion” to cost the substantial sum of “about Eight Pounds.”(37) Two years later, Carroll was again ordering looking glasses, this time requesting:

two Looking Glasses with gilt Frames of the Plain Genteel fashion The same Patterns for a Room thirteen feet Pitch with double sconces or Branches fixed to the Frames of the Glasses as the Room where they are to Hang is stocco'd and no places left for fixing the sconces if separated from the Glasses at about Ten Guineas Each.(38)

Other members of the Chesapeake gentry had additional concerns when buying looking glasses. In 1771, another member of the Carroll family placed a large order for furnishings for what was clearly intended to be a lavish and elegant parlor. Along with lighting devices, silk and wool damask to upholstered furniture, and carpeting, he wanted “Two Pier glasses 6 feet in height & 2 feet 10 inches wide including the frame to be as fashionable & as handsome as can be purchased for 15 guineas each. . . .” Further concern was expressed that “the carving . . . be of a solid kind” because “it has been found by experience, that slight carving will neither endure the extreams of Heat & cold nor the rough treatment of Negro servants.”(39) Several years later, Virginian, William Reynolds ordered through his agent, John Norton, “1 plain Mahogany framed looking glass at 3.10 not the least gilt about it, 1 Oval looking glass with a plain Mahogany frame at 4.4 . . . Gilt work will by no means suit with the number of flies [?] we have here.” Unfortunately, the looking glasses which were received failed to meet Reynolds's approval. He wrote complaining:

My glasses were not sent agreeable to my directions. Mr. Rumball having sent them with white frames and a good deal of carved work, the first does not agree well with the number of flies and the latter with the Carelessness of our servants. . . .(40)

Despite the above expressed concern about gilded frames, they continued to be offered for sale, at least in small numbers, by regional merchants. The Alexandria merchant firm of Hooe, Stone, and Co. imported “gilt framed looking glasses” at least twice in the midst of the American Revolution.(41) Regional merchants advertised gilt frame looking glasses occasionally throughout the rest of the century.(42)

Looking glasses appear in 96% of all Rural Elite Inventories (REI) studied.(43) Among the family group, 100% have the form. Both average and median numbers show REI ownership of 3 or 4 examples. Among the family group, the average is 3.4 and the median is 4. Roughly 96% of all looking glasses are undesignated as to form or type. Looking glasses with sconces,(44) the form specified most often, represents only 3.2% of all looking glasses recorded; specified chimney glasses account for only slightly more than 2% of all looking glasses listed. Chimney glasses, used above mantels, may be somewhat under represented, as it is possible that inventory takers neglected to record some of those installed in moldings integral to the architectural ornamentation rather than framed separately. However, given the value of mirror plate itself, it is not likely that there were many unlisted examples. Pier glasses are listed in only two REI and represent less than 2% of all looking glasses. The term “Dutch” is used as a descriptor for looking glasses in two inventories (including MASON63), but it is not clear whether this is intended to describe form, materials, or origin. In the family inventories, no form descriptions are given, other than MASON63's listing for a “Dutch” looking glass.

Pairs (definite or assumed) occur in 11% of all REI. In the family inventories, pairs are specified only in MASON97 which includes “one pair large looking glasses with gilt frames”; however, possible pairs are implied in ELBCK65 and MASON00 as well as an additional implied pair in MASON97. Specified or implied pairs occur in 60% of family inventories.

When materials or frame finish is cited (22% of REI looking glasses), gilt occurs most often, representing just over 13% of all looking glasses. Mahogany is used as a descriptor approximately 5% of the time. Walnut also occurs, as do the terms black and painted; however, none are listed as often as gilt or mahogany. Among the family inventories, only MASON97 cites materials, with all four examples listed as having gilt frames.

It is probable that George Mason, like many of his contemporaries, owned a variety of looking glasses which hung throughout Gunston Hall. It is highly likely that large, elegantly framed looking glasses were part of the decorative furnishings in the dining room, the parlor, and perhaps even the little parlor. Simpler glasses might have been among the furnishings for one or more of the bed chambers.(45) Inventory evidence among REI, indeed, in the entire database recording the presence of looking glasses in passages is rare--four examples out of more than three hundred inventories.

Surviving architectural evidence in the Chinese Room shows a large spike embedded in the original eighteenth-century plaster between the windows. The spike was probably used to hang a large, heavy looking glass. It is possible that a similar glass, though not necessarily a matching one, hung between the windows in the Palladian Room windows.(46) The overmantel fabric in three of the four downstairs rooms has been seriously disturbed, providing little evidence as to whether a “chimney” glass might have been either built into a framework or hung in a separate frame. Only the overmantel of the little parlor is sufficiently intact to show that either a glass or painting was inset there. Given an early 20th-century reference to a possible painting, and lack of any references to chimney glasses, no chimney glass is recommended at this time.


Looking Glasses:    3-4
Origins:    Britain
Dates:    1750-1788
Styles:    Determined by date and material.
Materials:    1-2: Gilt; 2-3: Mahogany; plain or with gilt ornamentation



In 18th-century elite households, furniture, when not in use, stood against the walls and was moved about as daily activities required. As part of this mobility, some households employed small stands which could be shifted easily. A candlestick was often placed on these pieces to provide light for reading or needlework. According to recent scholarship, relatively few candlestands were produced by American cabinetmakers until after the Revolutionary War and the form was out of fashion by the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century.(47) However, these small stands are occasionally listed in cabinetmakers' newspaper advertisements and appear in the account books of craftsmen. Gerrard Hopkins, working in Baltimore in 1767, advertised the form among the goods he made and sold, and in 1774, an unidentified Virginia cabinetmaker, probably working in the Fredericksburg area, charged one client 28 and another 8 for candlestands.(48) There is nothing in the entries to explain the difference in price, but one can only speculate that different woods were involved and that perhaps the more expensive one was ornamented with carving.

Stands that are specified as candlestands occur in only 10% of Rural Elite Inventories, (REI), with all but one example post-dating 1780. Two of the five (40%) family inventories include this form—MASON86 and MASON97. Interestingly, most of the examples recorded in the entire database are in Virginia inventories.


Candle stand:    1
Origin:    Chesapeake or America
Date:    1770-1788
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Material:    Walnut



Musical Instruments

Musical instruments of any type occur in only 30% of Rural Elite Inventories (REI),with keyboard instruments appearing in only 10% of REI. These numbers would lead one to believe such instruments were rare indeed; however, purchases of sheet music, references to instruments and lessons in letters and diaries, and even the occasional advertisement of an instrument for sale suggest otherwise.(49) Although there is no current scholarship to support the hypothesis, it seems probable that musical instruments were considered the personal property of the musician. In the case of daughters who were the most likely candidates as keyboard musicians, when they married and moved into their own homes, they may have taken the instrument with them.

Little is known about the Mason families' musical preferences. Of the family inventories, only ELBCK65, with a listing for a parcel of old fiddle strings, contains any reference to musical instruments. One can only speculate as to whether Ann Eilbeck might have brought a keyboard instrument with her to her marriage. Perhaps an instrument was bought when eldest daughter Ann (Nancy), born in 1755, reached the age when musical instruction was expected to be part of her education. Might any of the other Mason daughters have been the family accompanist?

The recommendation for a keyboard instrument is not grounded in either the database findings nor in the family documentation. Rather it is based upon extensive research into 18th century gender education and what appear to have been common practices in the homes of elite Chesapeake families.(50)

A keyboard instrument is a form which will require specific additional research.


Key Board Instrument:    1
Origin:    Britain
Date:    1750-1770
Style:    Determined by origin and date.




Numerically, chairs were the most common furniture form found in Elite households. Generally purchased in sets composed of multiples of six, chairs could vary in form, ornamentation, wood, and seat treatment. Within the same household, there was generally a mixture of chairs which conformed to the perceived hierarchy of rooms within the house.

Newspaper advertisements provide some insights into the range of chairs which were available to the local market. Both locally made and imported chairs were advertised in regional newspapers. The 1740s saw notices from a London-trained upholsterer who set up shop in Williamsburg and a cabinetmaker and carver from Liverpool working in Annapolis.(51) Both included chairs among the products offered to the public. The 1740s also provide evidence that items such as rush bottom chairs might have been produced locally by individuals such as “WILLIAM HAYES, Chair-maker from Philadelphia, [who] now lives in Annapolis, and . . . will furnish any Gentlemen, or other, with all sorts of Rush bottom Chairs, made in the best and neatest manner and at the most reasonable Rates.”(52) Hayes did not have a monopoly on the local market, however, as others imported similar chairs from other sources. In November of 1747, an Annapolis merchant listed “Rush bottom Chairs of the best Make and Fashion” among other goods he had imported. Although no source is specified, the other items included suggest that the cargo had originated in New England.(53)

Throughout the 1750s and 1760s, advertisements provide evidence for groups of London made chairs offered for sale. Rarely are these notices very descriptive, although mahogany is usually specified as the wood. More intriguing is the April 1765 notice of goods imported from London by Maryland merchant Samuel Dorsey. Along with the usual lengthy list of textiles, buttons, and household miscellany were an unspecified number of “best red Russia Leather Chairs.”(54)

During the second half of the 1760s, a number of interesting notices were published by Maryland cabinetmakers advertising their skills and wares. In March of 1766, Philip Williams included among the items which he could produce, “Chairs of all sorts, as Settees, Easy chairs, Arm Chairs, Parlour Chairs, Chamber Chairs, Close Chairs, and Couches, carved or plain. . . .”(55) The following year, Gerrard Hopkins, “CABINET and CHAIR-MAKER, from Philadelphia at the Sign of the Tea-Table and Chair, in Gay-Street, Baltimore-Town” advertised that he would make and sell “in the best Manner, and in the newest Fashions in Mahogany, Walnut, Cherry-Tree and Maple. . . .” a variety of furniture forms, including “Chairs of various Sorts, such as Easy, Arm, Parlour, Chamber and Corner Chairs. . . .”(56) Two years later, Francis Hepburn “CABINET and CHAIR-MAKER, from LONDON . . . new in Church-Street . . . in ANNAPOLIS . . .” listed among the forms that he made and sold “in the most fashionable Mode” sofas, couches, settees, and “Bamboe [sic] Chairs.”(57)

Even craftsmen in other trades might occasionally get into the act. Annapolis clock and watchmaker William Faris, notified the public in October of 1769 that, “He also executes any Orders he may be favoured with for Chair Work, having lately supplied himself with a good Workman, and has now for Sale, several Dozens of very neat black Walnut Chairs. . . .”(58)

Newspaper advertisements also offered other types of descriptive detail. A 1773 notice in the Maryland Gazette offered for sale “six mahogany chairs with an elbow one, fine hair bottoms, newest pattern.”(59) Three years later, John Selden wished the public to know that he carried on “the CABINET-MAKING business . . . in all its branches” and that he had for sale, “ready made, several dozen of neat mohogany [sic], cherry, and walnut chairs.”(60) Other advertisements of furniture for sale through estate auctions or for financial reasons included information that the chairs offered were new or made in London.(61)

By the 1780s, changing fashions can begin to be detected through advertisements like the one placed in the Alexandria newspaper in September of 1784. It noted that among the goods imported from Liverpool were “fancy chairs,” the type of painted chair which had been fashionable in England since the third quarter of the 18th century.(62) In 1789, Alexandria merchant Jonathan Swift included among the list of goods imported from Liverpool and London a “few Sets of Beach [sic], japanned, and Mahogany Chairs.”(63)

Liverpool and London were not the only source for imported chairs. Alexandria merchants Robinson, Sanderson and Rumney, on at least two occasions, imported chairs in ships which sailed from the port of Whitehaven. In the fall of 1785, their shipment of goods included “Two neat sets of Mahogany chairs, 1 dozen each,” and in October of the following year, their advertisement included walnut and mahogany chairs among the goods offered for sale.(64)

The 1780s also saw the emergence of several chair and cabinetmakers in Alexandria who solicited for local patronage. Windsor chair maker Ephraim Evans, “Late from Philadelphia” set up shop on Prince Street and cabinetmaker James M'Cormick advertised that his work was in the “newest and neatest manner” based on “his long experience in some of the first shops in England and Ireland.”(65)

Accounts and records of goods ordered and received by individuals provide additional information about the chairs which filled the rooms of elite Chesapeake households. George Washington's financial records are particularly rich in detail. One of the earliest surviving invoices of goods shipped to him from England in August of 1757 included a group of furniture purchased at auction and apparently intended to supply a fashionable en suite bedchamber. In addition to the bedstead with its “yellow silk and worsted Damask” hangings and matching window curtains, the order also included “A Mahogany easy Chair on casters” and “6 Mahogany chairs, Gothick archd Backs & Seats of ditto and an Elbow Chair,” all upholstered in matching fabric. The easy chair was also supplied with a checked slip cover.(66) In the fall of that year, he ordered a set of a dozen chairs intended to replace a set that he already possessed. His letter to his agent is revealing about the quality of goods available locally as well as about period furnishing practices.

. . . send me one dozn strong Chairs of about fifteen Shillings price the bottoms to be exactly made by the Inclosed Dimension's and of three different colors to suit the paper of three of the bed chambers I also wrote for in my lastg . . . I have one dozn Chairs that were made in the Country neat but too weak for common sitting I therefore purpose to take the bottoms out of those and put them into these now ordered while the bottoms which you send will do for the former and furnish the Chambers. . . .(67)

These chairs were in addition to the “neat and strong Mahogany Chairs at 21” that Washington had ordered the previous April.(68) Other references from these early years include six black walnut chairs with black leather bottoms and two arm chairs which appear as a credit in Washington's account with Col. Adam Stephen and four flag-bottomed chairs as a credit under the entry for “Lovett a New Englandman.”(69) In September 1763, Washington is again ordering chairs from England, requesting that his agent Robert Cary send him “2 Elbow Chairs [and] 12 plain setting Ditto [chairs] the leather to cover the Frames -- to be large and strong, & not to exceed 15 and 6 Windsor chairs.”(70) In response to this order, the February 1764 invoice included “12 Chairs covered with Leather and brass Naild a 16, 2 Elbows to ditto a 24 [and] 6 Windsor chairs painted Green a 7” from English upholsterer Edward Polhill.(71)

It may be that Washington was dissatisfied with the chairs he received through Cary or that financial affairs intervened, for the next June found him placing a similar order through an entirely different source. Through “James Gildart Esqr Mercht Liverpl” Washington sent for

Two elbow & Ten common sitting Chairs for an Entertaining Room - to be large neat and fashionable, and not to exceed 25 a piece - NOTE - If Marine [moreen] for handsome stuff bottoms can be had for this price, please to order it of a proper colour.(72)

It took almost a year, but in May of 1765, Gildart shipped to Washington 10 Mahogany chairs with hair bottoms for 27 each and 2 arm chairs for 203 each to match. While Gildart came close to Washington's price limit, he may have felt that hair bottoms were more fashionable than the wool “marine” textile which Washington had mentioned.(73)

Washington was not the only member of Chesapeake society to record the purchase of chairs among his papers. In 1762, Robert Beverley ordered “2 Dozn. neat Plain Mahogany Chairs with hair Bottoms” through his London agent. A decade later, Beverley sent another order for chairs which illustrates just how detailed purchase instructions could be. He wanted:

12 neat plain mahogany Chairs, with yellow worstit stuff Damask Bottoms . . . & spare loose cases of yellow & white check to tie over them. The Bottoms all to be loose & not nailed with brass Nails, wch I dislike much & the Covering of the Hair, with wch the Bottoms are filled to be of thick strong Canvas, & not the thin coarse stuff with wch Chairs are coverd, because they are soon set out. . . . (74)

The following year, Samuel Galloway's London agent purchased for him “12 Mahy. Chairs, Setter D. stuffed in the best manners & covered with the best Black Spanish Leather with brass nails” and “2 arm to match.”(75) In 1770, Robert Carter paid 11 each for a dozen Windsor chairs. The Carter papers also record payment for six mahogany chairs with hair bottoms in 1771 as well as the purchase, in 1772, from Williamsburg cabinetmaker, Benjamin Bucktrout, of “8 Mahogy. Chairs Stuffed over the Rails with Brass nails @ 25 pr doz” and “4 Elbow Chairs @ 55.”(76) In 1772, William Reynolds of Annapolis wrote to John Norton that he wished to order “1 doz Mahogany chairs with hair concave bottoms @ 24 each” together with “2 Elbow chairs to suit them” and “8 Small windsor chairs for a passage.”(77) In the decades following the American Revolution, both individuals and merchants continued to record the ordering and purchasing of household chairs.

A single record only gives a glimpse of the purchases of an individual. On rare occasions one is able to find a complete portrait of how items were described when comparing order, invoices, and family records. Thomas Jones requested, in an invoice to Robert Bogle, circa 1764, “1 doz. Plan fashionable neat mahogany chairs and 2 corner do” costing 12 and 4. On 17 February 1764, Kemp & Button of London sold to Messrs. Bogle & Scott for Thomas Jones, “12 Mahogany Chairs with Hair seets 18” for a total of 1016 and “2 elbow or round do to match 28” for a total of 216. Shipping charges amounted to 92 and included the cost of shipping a desk. After Jones's death in 1782, his son Catesby purchased 14 chairs from the estate for 10. Note that apparently the same chairs are described in 1764 as “corner”, “elbow,” or “round.” Any description is left out of the entry twenty years later.(78)

Not surprisingly, chairs appear in 100% of the Rural Elite Inventories (REI). The average number per households is 47.2. In the family households, the average is slightly lower--42.8. Median for all households having the type (HHT) is 42. Among the family, the median is 43.

Sets of chairs, assumed upon the basis of descriptors or other evidence within the individual inventories, appear in 100% of the REI and in 100% of the family group.(79)

Three to four sets per household is average, with sets of twelve being the most common, followed closely by sets of six. Sets of eighteen or larger appear in 20% of REIs. Generally, the chairs in any one household were

a combination of several sets of various sizes with a few miscellaneous chairs, apparently either acquired individually or the remnants of larger sets.

Arm or elbow chairs, as seen in the orders cited above, were sometimes used in ones or twos with larger sets of matching side chairs; however, not every set of chairs, even in an elite household, had matching arm chairs. Arm or elbow chairs represent only 4.4% of all chairs but are found in 64% of all REI. Among the family inventories, only two (40%) specifically list arm chairs. It is probable that the percentage of arm chairs in all the inventories is somewhat under represented due to the failure of inventory takers to differentiate among forms in a set of chairs.

Easy chairs, although seemingly ubiquitous based upon survival and display in house museum settings, were, in fact, not common. They represent roughly 1% of all chairs listed in REI and appear in only 34% of REI. Among the family group, only one inventory (20%) includes the form.

Other specialized forms which appear in limited numbers in both the general sample and among the family inventories are smoking, or corner chairs, and children' chairs. Examples of the these forms, like easy chairs, appear in only one each (20%) of the family inventories and in only 4% (smoking) and 4% (children's) of the general inventory group.

Another distinct style of chair is the Windsor. Windsors were considered as part of the larger group for the determination of general numbers and assumed sets. Because of their distinctly different appearance, Windsors are less likely to be under represented in inventory descriptions. They represent approximately 11% of all chairs listed in REI and appeared in 40% of REI. The average number of Windsors in REI is 12 with a median of 11.5. Of those inventories listing Windsors, 55% predate 1790, with another four post-1790 inventories including Windsors described as “old.” The inference here is that three quarters of the REI households had what are more likely to be true “Windsors” rather than examples of fancy chairs, although this can not be truely documented. Among the family inventories, three (60%) include the form; indeed, in MASON97, they are the predominant type of chair, with some possibly representing some type of early fancy chair. The family average is 27 with a median of 18.

While there is no surviving evidence concerning the use of Windsor chairs at Gunston Hall, six branded Philadelphia Windsors, which survive in Mason family hands, raise an interesting question. These chairs, marked with the brand of W. Cox, have upholstered seats and date stylistically from the 1780s or 1790s. It is intriguing to speculate whether these chairs were among the eighteen Windsor chairs with “green moreen bottoms” which were listed in MASON97.(80) Could George Mason, known to have been shopping for other household furnishings for his son while in Philadelphia in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, have purchased these chairs as well? While it seems unlikely that Mason would have been purchasing new Windsors for Gunston Hall at this late date, do these chairs represent a continuation of a family pattern of purchasing Windsors from Philadelphia? Might a set have been purchased at the time of the addition of the landside porch which probably happened some twenty-five years after the original construction of the house? Could Mason have ordered Windsors from Philadelphia earlier in the 1780s when he was making other changes to Gunston Hall following his second marriage? Even if Mason did add new Windsors to the furniture at Gunston Hall in the mid-1770s or the early 1780s, it seems unlikely that these would have been his first purchase of this seating form. It seems probable that there would have already been a set of at least six for use on the garden side porch.(81) Based upon the documentary evidence found in the papers of his contemporaries, this early set might have been either English or American. By the end of his life, it is likely that George Mason owned two sets of Windsors, one from the 1760s and a second from the 1770s or 1780s.

When all types of chairs are examined by materials, i.e., woods and seating types, additional information is gleaned. Mahogany is the most commonly listed wood type, representing roughly 60% of all (both REI and Family) chairs described by wood, and occurring in 62% of REI listing wood types. Walnut is the second most commonly cited wood, occurring in approximately one third of all REI which include wood type. Among upholstery types listed, leather both represents the largest percentage of cited examples and occurs most often among the inventories which include seating material. Among other types of seating materials listed, woven seats (flag, rush, and straw) and textiles (not including hair) occur in roughly even numbers (between 15 and 16%). Listings for hair account for approximately 9% of examples citing seating material. When the family group is segregated, textile seats predominate (41.2%), with leather (22.4%) and flag (23.5%) appearing in roughly equal numbers.

Clearly, chairs would have been an important component of the furniture in Gunston Hall. Not only would they have been the single most predominant form, but they would have had significant visual impact in the rooms in which they were placed. As with all elite households, they would have varied as to style, size and types of sets, and materials.

Given the large numbers of chairs in elite households, it is not surprising that chairs represent the biggest group of furniture with Mason family provenances. Family history places most of these chairs at Gunston Hall; however, many of them are of the wrong date or origin or have only tenuous connections to George Mason. Of these family-associated chairs, the following five examples, at this time, are the most likely candidates to have been used by George Mason at Gunston Hall or to have strong Mason family histories.(82)

Perhaps the most intriguing of these chairs is the side chair fragment that is attributed to the design and production skills of Buckland and Sears. The number “IV” cut into the front rail marks this as one of what was originally at least of a set of six. Made of walnut, the front legs of the chair are decorated with a shallow relief carving possibly intended to be Chinoisorie in inspiration. No doubt, these chairs were made for Gunston Hall while the interior woodwork was being done. Unfortunately, the back elements of the chair are missing which raises questions about possible crest rail and splat designs. Given the decoration on the front legs and the carved C-scroll brackets between the front legs and the front seat rail, it is likely that the back design was finished with some degree of elaboration, making these chairs good candidates for either the parlor or dining room. If additional research can determine a likely back design, it is recommended that these chairs be reproduced as part of the furnishings for either the parlor or the dining room.

A second set of chairs, also likely to have been for the more fashionable public rooms at Gunston Hall, can be seen in a pair of side chairs on loan to Gunston Hall from Mason descendants. These chairs have an oral history of descent in the family of George Mason's son John.(83) The chairs have refined strapwork splats with restrained carved details. Made of mahogany with red pine as a secondary wood, it has been suggested by furniture scholars that these might be Scottish in origin, dating circa 1760-1780.(84) Three very similar antique chairs, purchased in this century in Scotland and recently donated to Gunston Hall, would seem to support this attribution. Numbers carved into the seat rails indicate that they were part of at least a set of six. The existence of chairs of very similar design to the Gunston chairs raises the possibility that an assembled set might be possible; however, given the length of time this would take and the uncertainty of success, the Museum should consider having these chairs reproduced.

A third set of chairs can be postulated from three chairs still in family hands. The chairs descend through the same line as the Buckland/Sears fragment. These chairs, two side and an arm chair, are very typical of “neat but plain” Virginia chairs of the third quarter of the 18th century, and might even have been locally produced. The Roman numeral “VIIII” is carved into the seat rail of one of the side chairs, indicating an original set of at least twelve. The plain character of these chairs, coupled with the existence of an arm chair, suggests that the chairs might well have been used in the Little Parlor.(85) It is recommended that these chairs be reproduced as part of the proposed refurnishing of Gunston Hall.

Two chairs of a fourth set have recently come to light. They are of of a type typical of northern Virginia, possibly from Fredericksburg.(86) The seat rails are marked with the Roman numerals “I” and “II.” From photographs, it appears that these chairs date from the third quarter of the 18th century. Wood type and more precise dating remains to be determined, pending physical examination of the chairs.

The fifth recommended chair is unfortunately known only through two early 20th-century photographs. This chair, a corner or “smoking” chair, was used as prop upon which to photograph several children who were descendants of John Mason. Examination of the pictures has led to a preliminary identification of the chair as either English or American (possibly Virginia) dating from the 1750s or 1760s. The evidence of this chair, coupled with the appearance of the form in the MASON63 inventory, leads to the recommendation of the inclusion of this style of chair among the furnishings at Gunston Hall.


Chairs:    Total Number: 54-60
Origins:    Britain, Chesapeake, or Philadelphia
Date:    1750-1788
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Sets:    2-3 sets of 6 each; 3-4 sets 12 each
Forms:    Arm--2-3 (excluding Windsors) depending upon number/type of sets; Smoking--1 (this could also be fitted as a close stool chair); Windsors-- 2 sets, i.e.,: 1 set of 6, 1 set of 6 or 12 - Painted
Materials:    Mahogany--40-50%; Walnut --20%; Black Walnut / Cherry / etc.--10-20%



Sleeping arrangements in the eighteenth century included a wide range of possibilities. Even in elite households, people were accommodated in a variety of ways. Family members and guests no doubt slept in bedsteads fitted out with various types of bedding, as did upper servants like housekeepers. Lesser servants and slaves may well have slept on pallets simply placed directly on the floor.(88)

Inventory descriptions often make it difficult to determine which type of sleeping accommodation is being listed. Complicating the picture further is the evolution of language. In the eighteenth century, the term bed most often referred to a “a sack or tick filled with feathers or wool,” but beds could also be filled with straw or other types of materials.(89) However, by the middle of the century, the term bed was beginning to shift toward the modern meaning of the word, thus sometimes making it difficult to determine just what was being described. Further confusing the issue was the use of the term “furniture” to mean all the component parts of whatever object was being described. Thus when “furniture” was coupled with descriptions of bedsteads and bed, it might mean just the bedding or perhaps bed curtains or in a few instances perhaps even include the bedstead!

Bedsteads, as pieces of furniture, were most often secondary in value and importance to the textiles which covered and, in the case of highpost bedsteads, curtained them. Some sense of just how impressive such hangings could be is found in a period journal describing the accommodations at the Randolph plantation,Tuchahoe. After dinner, visitors were shown to their bed chambers. One guest had a damask bed and the other a room “all done in velvet and gold” with the bed “decorated like a Feast Day!”(90)

Bedsteads themselves came in a variety of forms. In elite households these included highpost with either flat, arched or serpentine tops,(91) lowpost, and on rare occassions, a trundle bedstead to slip under a larger bedstead.

Elite householders might have acquired their bedsteads and bedding from the same range of sources that they used for other pieces of furniture. Regional cabinetmakers often listed bedsteads among the furniture forms that they offered for sale.(92) The account book of an unidentified Fredericksburg area cabinetmaker illustrates something about the range of forms and woods available from regional cabinetmakers. Included in the account book are listings for both teaster and tent bedsteads and examples made from cherry and maple as well as unspecified woods or finishes.(93)

Although advertisements are rarely descriptive, an intriguing notice in an Alexandria newspaper in 1796 shows that fashionable bedsteads, whether locally made or imported, were available for sale in the region. The notice invited the public to see “An Elegant new MAHOGANY BEDSTEAD, with fluted posts, carved and inlaid.”(94)

Bedsteads with their accompanying fittings were also among the furniture forms ordered by Chesapeake gentry through British agents. Twice in the 1750s, George Washington ordered bedsteads complete with hangings from England. In August of 1757 he received “a Bedstead with Mahogany Carvd & fluted pillars for feet Posts, yellow Silk & worsted Damask Furniture, lined with Tammy & Carvd Cornishes compleat.” The entry on the invoice noted that all this splendor had cost 25.10. at auction. In addition, Washington also received matching window curtains, as well as an easy chair and 6 mahogany side chairs with matching upholstery. Two years later, Washington ordered a “Tester Bedstead” to be hung with blue or blue and white hangings together with matching window curtains. In response to his request he was billed for “A Beach Bedstead colourd all over, Castors, a strong Sacking Case slips a Compass Rod, Brass Caps & neat plain Mahy foot Posts, & a neat cut Cornish,” together with 70 yards of “chintz Bleu plate Cotton furniture” which was no doubt used for the bed hangings.(95) Washington was apparently satisfied with the items he was sent, unlike fellow Virginian Robert Beverley who found the beds which he received to be too expensive. He wrote, in 1773, to his agent that:

. . .The last Beds, wch. you sent me exceeded my Expectations so far, that I was surprized when I received them--I want two more, but before I order them, I shall chuse to know the Prices exactly. You will therefore be pleased to direct ye upholsterer to make out an Estimate of two yellow moreen four Post Beds—The Curtains to draw with Rings--The Front Posts[s] Mahogany, & perfectly plain also 3 Window Curtains to a Room 10 Feet high, so that if I approve the Price, I may order them next year.(96)

Despite his difficulties, Beverley apparently still felt that this was the best approach to acquiring such important pieces of household furniture, for a decade later he again ordered from England. This time he wanted “1 neat four posted bedstead, the front posts to be plain mahogany with dark green harratean [sic] curtains 2 window curtains . . . [and] fifteen yds of the harratean for covering chairs.” He went on to note “I send for this stuff because I think it neat & I find by advertisements in London beds of this stuff are cheap with pullies etc.--compleat.”(97)

Because of the complexity of possible sleeping arrangements within an eighteenth-century household, the inventory material was analyzed in a variety of ways. First, total sleeping units were counted. A sleeping unit was defined as any item or group of items which could be distinguished as distinct from any other in the inventory. For example, a listing for two beds and bedsteads was counted as two sleeping units; a listing for a straw bed not associated with another group of bedding was considered a unit. In addition, children's forms such as cribs and cradles were tallied as separate units as were listings for trundle forms, cots, and couches. Total units were then examined in detail to determine how many of the sleeping units included bedsteads, how many were child related, etc.

Not surprisingly, 100% of the Rural Elite Inventories (REI) include sleeping units. The average number of sleeping units was 10.7 and the median was 10. The Mason family inventories also show 100% inclusion of sleeping units. The average number in the family inventories is 10.6 and the median is 10.

Bedsteads occur in 92% of REI. Sleeping units were counted as including a bedstead if they included the term bedstead, or made reference to bed curtains or bed cords. In four inventories within REI, the listings fail to specify either bedsteads or other terms which would imply a bedstead. High values for one or more example in each of these four inventories would seem to suggest that the citations for beds and furniture are, in fact, for furniture forms with relatively elaborate bedding. However, these vague examples were not included in the percentage tabulation. Among households assumed to have bedsteads, the average number of bedsteads was 8 and the median number was 9. Among the family inventories, bedstead ownership is 100% with an average of 6.8 and a median of 7.

The form of bedsteads can be difficult to ascertain due to the confusion of language in listing sleeping units. When bed curtains were mentioned in conjunction with a bedstead or if other descriptive clues were given, i.e., teaster rod, the bedstead was assumed to be some form of highpost bedstead, including field or tent forms. Using this methodology, highpost bedsteads comprise 32.8% of those listed in REI. In the five family inventories, curtained bedsteads account for 50% of those recorded. It is very likely that highpost bedsteads are somewhat under counted using this method.

When materials or finishes are cited for bedsteads in REI, mahogany is enumerated most often. Black walnut is the second most commonly listed wood, followed closely by walnut. Mahogany and walnut occur in the same number (14 each) of the households where materials are listed, followed by black walnut (10) and painted (7). Painted bedsteads are the fourth most common description for material/finish.

In the family inventories, 3 of the 5 cite materials/finish for bedsteads. Walnut is the most commonly cited wood, with MASON97 alone having six examples. Painted and stained finishes combined are the second most common listings with mahogany and pine tied for third. Interestingly, in addition to his six walnut bedsteads, MASON97 had four green examples.

Children's forms occur in 20% of REI and represent less than 3% of all sleeping units. This number is no doubt somewhat under represented as many of the inventories in the sample are for households of elderly decedents rather than those with young children. However, given the multi-generational nature of many families, it is difficult to account for the low numbers unless the forms are passed from generation to generation without ever passing through the probate possess. Among the family inventories, 60% have children's forms. These forms represent over 9% of the total number of family sleeping units.

Couches occurred in 32% of REI but in none of the family inventories. Trundle forms occur in 10% of REI but no examples are listed in the family inventories.


Sleeping Units:    12

Bedsteads:    9-10
Origin:    Britain or Chesapeake
Date:    1750-1788
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Form:    5 high post; 4-5 low post; 2 Children's units: crib or cradle
Material:    1-2 Mahogany; 2-3 Walnut; 2-3 Painted; 1-2 Other: stained, pine, cherry, black walnut, etc.



As the eighteenth century progressed, the proliferation of consumer goods--everything from pins and needles to cups and saucers--caused increasing emphasis to be placed upon storage. Safeguarding these often expensive accouterments of an elite, genteel lifestyle meant both storing them in ways that protected them from decay and damage as well as theft. In addition, care was taken to store these goods to allow for organization and ready access. Part of this concern was expressed architecturally by the increasing amounts of built-in storage found in elite Chesapeake households as the century progressed.

Eighteenth-century storage furniture encompassed a wide range of forms. Included are large stationary pieces such as bookcases and chests of drawers, general movable storage such as chests and trunks, and very specialized forms such as bottle cases. Most, if not all, of the forms found in this sub-category are lockable, providing the owner with a sense of control over precious household stores. Given the perceived and no doubt real problem of petty theft by hired and indentured servants and enslaved African Americans within elite households, it is not surprising that locks of all types were a regular part of the goods ordered and sold by colonial merchants. Security was sometimes emphasized as one of the important features of storage furniture offered for sale. For example, a notice in the Alexandria newspaper in 1787 of household furnishings offered for sale noted that among them was “a very neat Mahogany chest upon chest set of drawers with neat furniture locks and keys.”(98)


Most elite households included some books. In the majority of households, the numbers seem to have been small enough to have been accommodated by the bookcase section of desks and bookcases or possibly in other storage areas such as cupboards or closets.(99) There was, however, some demand for separate bookcase units. Robert Carter of Nomini Hall apparently owned several examples. His papers contain at least two references to purchases of the form and tutor Philip Fithian noted in his journal that “Mr Carter at my request, gave me the Keys of his Book-Cases and allowed me to spend the Day alone in his Library.”(100) Newspaper advertisements also provide information about these forms. Cabinetmakers occasionally advertised bookcases and a notice for the sale of William Byrd's library of approximately 4000 volumes advised that they were “contained in twenty three double Presses of black Walnut.”(101) Not all examples were as fine as that of William Bryd. The account book of an unidentified Fredericksburg area cabinetmaker included a reference to making a pine bookcase for Col. James Madison.(102)

Separate bookcases or presses were owned by approximately one quarter of the REI. The average number per HHT is 1.8 and the median is 1.

None of the five family inventories show this type; however, a letter written by George Mason in June 1787 seems to confirm his ownership of a bookcase. Having arrived at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia without some needed papers, Mason wrote home to his son requesting that they be found and sent. After referring to one group left in his desk and bookcase in the Little Parlor, he noted that the others, he thought, he had “tied up in a Bundle and . . . put into one of the Pigeon-holes in the book Case in the Dining-Room.”(103) The reference to pigeon holes would seem to suggest that this may have been a custom order piece for Mason, since typical period bookcases do not have this feature.


Bookcase: 1
Origin:    Britain or Chesapeake
Date:    1750-1780
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Materials:    Mahogany, walnut, or black walnut

Case of Bottles

Alcohol, particularly wine, played a central role in entertaining in elite eighteenth-century households. A formal dinner would have required many bottles of wine. Arising out of this practice was the desire to present these bottles in an organized and attractive way in gentry dining rooms. The solution for many elite households was the bottle case. These portable forms also made it easier to transport bottles to be refilled from larger containers of wine. In addition, they also allowed lockable storage when not in use.

While some cases were undoubtedly made by local craftsmen, they were also among the items purchased from abroad by local merchants and individuals.(104) Among the items listed in the invoice book of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson in 1773 were “3 Mahogany Cases with 6 bottles each.”(105) While these examples may have simply been intended to be part of general merchandise, very specific examples were sometimes requested by individuals. George Washington, in 1760, ordered:

1 Mahogany Case with 16 Square Bottles in it, each bottle holding a Gallon; and the case to stand upon a frame supported by 4 legs from the foot of which to the Top of case let be 2 feet 4 Inches. NB. let ye Bottles be very strong—(106)

In the spring of the following year, Washington was billed 17.17.-- for “A Neat Mahogany Square Case with 16 Galls Bottles in ditto with ground Stoppers Brass lifting handles & brass Casters.”(107)

Among the REI, 60% owned this form. The average is 1.3 examples with a median of 1. In the family group, 3 (60%) of 5 also owned this form. One family member, MASON63, had two examples.


Case of Bottles: 1
Origin:    Britain
Date:    1750-1780
Style:    With or without stand
Material:    Mahogany


Although there were many different forms of furniture used for storage, the most common were storage chests and trunks of various types. Chests, basically lidded wooden boxes, were widespread and used to hold a wide range of goods from tools to textiles. It seems likely that chests were most often the product of local woodworking craftsmen. Furniture studies at Colonial Williamsburg find that by the 1750s chests were coming to be viewed as secondary storage forms in gentry Chesapeake households and were placed in less important rooms within the house. Their role was augmented by more fashionable and specialized forms such as chest of drawers. These findings seem to be borne out by the information found in the Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database; however, the limited number of room-by-room inventories makes it difficult to accurately chart hierarchy of placement.(108)

Chests occur in over 65% of the Rural Elite Inventories (REI) studied. The average per households having type (HHT) is 3.8 and the median is 2. They occur in four of the five (80%) family inventories. Only MASON00 does not include the form. The average in the family of HHT is 4.8 and the median is 4.5 in HHT and 3 in all family households.

A cherry chest in the Gunston Hall collection has a family history of having been owned by George Mason. Dating stylistically circa 1780-1810, it has feet and a base molding characteristic of the Chesapeake region.(109) The chest came back to Gunston Hall from an Alexandria family whose oral history of the piece relates its purchase from the widow of George Mason VI in 1838.


Chests:     3-5
Origin:    Chesapeake
Date:    1750-1788
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Material:    Regional woods

Chests of Drawers

Unlike chests and trunks, chests of drawers offered compartmentalized storage for the variety of goods which were increasingly part of the elite lifestyle. One young lady gave a clue to the use to which such pieces were put when she wrote in a letter in 1789:

Did you never of a rainy day, empty all your Drawers on the Bed, in order to set them to right? If you can recollect the confusd mixture of Ribbon, Gauze, flowers, Beads, Persian feathers and Lace, black and white, you will have the best idea I can give you of Miss Garnetts Hatt. . . . (110)

Women were not the only ones in a household to use such pieces. One gentleman wrote home requesting that a search be “made in the different chests of drawers” for a missing waistcoat apparently left behind.(111)

Although their basic function was the same, by the mid-eighteenth century, chests of drawers could be purchased in a variety of forms and sizes. The most typical version was a grouping of four drawers within a case. This basic form was sometimes doubled to make a chest on chest or might be raised on high legs with a variety of drawer configurations to make a high, or tall, chest. Evidence seems to suggest that high chests, which had fallen out of favor in England by mid-century, were never as popular in Virginia as they appear to have been in northern colonies. However, some families, including the Masons, did own this less fashionable form.

John Mason, in his recollections of life at Gunston Hall when he was a small boy, remembers that the children's clothes were kept in a large chest of drawers in his mother's chamber. Based upon his memory of the drawer configuration, the piece that Mason recalls was clearly a high chest of drawers.(112) It may well be this piece which is listed as “1 mahogany tall Chest of Drawers” in the 1802 indenture which protected the personal property of Mason's daughter, Ann Eilbeck Mason Johnson. If this was indeed the chest John describes in his Mother's chamber, it speaks to the importance of the piece within the family and also gives clues to female inheritance patterns. (113)

When all variations of type are taken into account, chests of drawers appear in 56% of the REI. The average number of examples REI which have the type is 2 and the median HHT is 2. Four of five (80%) of the family inventories have this form. The average in the family is 2.5 and the median is 2.


Chests of Drawers:     2
Origin:    America or Britain
Form:    1 tall chest, 1 four drawer example
Date:    1750-1780
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Materials:    Mahogany, walnut, or black walnut


Trunks, unlike chests, were often imported by general merchants and were sometimes ordered to suit personal needs and tastes by members of genteel Chesapeake society. Made of some type of covering stretched over a wooden frame, trunks could be had in a variety of material and styles. Robert Beverley, ordering goods in 1791, noted that, “as the deal boxes [for shipping goods] are costly & useless I wish you would always send dry goods where they are not too bulky in a trunk wh [which] altho it costs something more may be of some use.”(114) While Beverley apparently voiced no special requirements for his trunks, George Washington had something more specific in mind. In 1767, he ordered through his English agent, two trunks for which he gave exact dimensions, adding:

Both to be made of Sealskin or strong leather, to have strg locks, be well secured with Straps, brass plates, & Nails & GW markd in the middle to have Oil cloth Covers.(115)

Elizabeth Jones, in 1759 and 1760, ordered that her goods be shipped in “a chest with a good lock” and that “the small things be packt in a round Portomantue Hair Trunk 2 feet long with a very good lock.” She was charged 9 shillings for the trunk.(116)

Merchant account books also provide glimpses of the range and types of trunks available. The order book of the firm of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson includes entries for nests of gilt trunks, for gilt and common Caravan style trunks and for nexts of “red Trunks” and “French Carravans.”(117) Newspaper advertisements also include descriptions of trunks. Norfolk merchants Balfour and Barr included among the goods just imported in 1766 and advertised for sale “hair, gilt and black leather trunks.”(118)

Inventory records show that trunks were utilized in a wide range of places in elite households. While many were apparently relegated to garrets, cellars, closets, and lumber rooms, others were found in chambers and passages. Only very rarely were trunks placed in the more important public rooms of elite houses.

Trunks of various sizes and materials are included in 82% of REI. The average number in HHT is 6 and the median HHT is 3. The family group shows 100% ownership of this form, including examples listed as gilt and leather. The average in the family is 5.4 and the median is 3.

This subcategory is one where documentation concerning George Mason's purchases is known. Twice during the 1760s, Mason purchased trunks from the Piscataway, Maryland store of John Glassford & Co. In August of 1766, he bought two gilt trunks, perhaps of different sizes, as one cost one shilling two pence and the other two shillings. The following year the ledger recorded his purchase of one damaged hair trunk for the sum of ten shillings. Based on its cost despite being damaged, this later example must have been either quite large or exceptionally fine.(119)


Trunks:    3-6
Origin:    Britain or America
Date:    1750-1788
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Material:    Mixed: at least- 1 gilt; 1 hair



Tables were perhaps the most multi-functional pieces of furniture found in the 18th-century house. They could be used for dining, for entertaining, for game playing, for work surfaces, and, when not in use, for displaying decorative household objects. By the mid-18th century, cabinetmakers had begun to make and patrons to purchase tables intended to serve specialized functions. Inventories specify such forms as dining, tea, card, and breakfast tables, among others. However, it is clear that usage may have differed depending upon the owner's needs from day to day, and that varying perceptions may have led one individual to see a tea table where another might have only noticed a small, multi-functional stand. Perhaps it is this versatility and variety of perception that accounts for the fact that roughly 65% of all tables listed in Rural Elite Inventories (REI) are undesignated as to function.

When material or finish is designated in REI, mahogany, at 37.7%, is listed most often. Walnut accounts for approximately one fifth of the cited material listings, followed in descending order by pine, black walnut, marble, and cherry. Among the family inventories, mahogany accounts for just over half of the designated listings. Cherry and pine occur at the same rate, 17.4%, of the cited examples and walnut is a distant fourth at 8.7%. In the family, only MASON97 includes a citation for a marble slab table.

The average number of tables in REI is 11.6.(120) There are eleven households with 16 or more tables which raises the average. The median for REI is 10.5. In the five family inventories, both the average and the median is 8.

Dining Tables

Among the most important functions of tables in elite households was to serve as surfaces upon which to dine. The dining table was the center of the elite dinner ritual, a benchmark of genteel Chesapeake society. By having sufficient tables in appropriate shapes, forms, and materials at which to seat large numbers of dinner guests, the elite householder took the first step toward having the necessary equipage for serving a genteel dinner.

The inventory data base offers a clear statement about the importance of dining tables. Of those tables described by function in the REI, approximately one fifth are listed as dining tables. However, when all listings are examined more closely, using attributes such as size, placement, and appraised values, virtually all households have tables which undoubtedly functioned as dining tables. More than two-thirds have multiple examples, with over half of those that have multiple examples having what were probably pairs of dining tables. In table listings, mahogany is the wood cited in elite inventories most often and the most commonly listed shape is square.

Other types of documents provide additional clues to the importance of dining tables in elite households and in Chesapeake society in general. Both George Washington and Charles Carroll, Barrister, ordered pairs of tables through their English agents. Their orders make it clear that the intention was for the tables to match so that they could be joined together to form one large table when necessary. In 1757, Washington requested “Two neat Mahogany Tables 4

feet square when spread and to join occasionally.”(121) The following year, Carroll ordered “2 suitable Mahogany Dining Tables made so as to fit into each other if occasion Lengthways about each.”(122) Both men apparently understood the value of acquiring such tables as pairs, perhaps anticipating the difficulty recorded by Virginian Robert Pleasants in letters to his brother in 1772:

I am in want of a Mehogany [sic] Table to suit the one thou sent p. Montgomery & request it may be sent p. first opertunity [sic] it is square and wants about a qr of an inch of 4 feet in length & when the leaves are up measures near 3 feet 8 In. wide & is 2 feet 4 high with Claw feet.(123)

Several months later, he noted unhappily that “. . . by some means or other the workman has made a mistake in the length of the large table being about three inches shorter than the directions which was given exactly to fitt one I had before which purpose this will not answer. . . .” Pleasants contemplated returning the table but lacked faith that the cabinetmaker could redo it to suit. He decided to keep it and to try again to match his existing table, perhaps from a local cabinetmaker.(124) While only Carroll specifies that these are to be dining tables, such pairs of tables speak directly to the elite emphasis upon the importance of being able to serve large numbers of individuals at dinner and a desire to seat most if not all around one table instead of at multiple tables.

Other references to pairs of dining tables, while not so specific, illustrate the continued importance placed on matching tables. Robert Beverley ordered three mahogany dining tables in 1763.(125) Unfortunately, the order for his tables, to which he alludes in a separate letter, has not been discovered, leaving one to wonder about the table sizes and shapes. While the reference found does not specify that these are to be matching, the fact that they were ordered together would imply the likelihood that this was the case. In 1786, the merchant firm of Smith, Huie & Alexander & Co. of Dumfries supplied two different customers with pairs of mahogany dining tables, valued at 9 for each pair.(126)

Newspaper advertisements for cabinetmakers, imported furniture, and auction sales often specify dining tables among the forms offered. The 1766 advertisement of Philip Williams, Annapolis cabinetmaker, showed that he made a wide variety of furniture, including dining tables. Three years later, Francis Hepburn, also of Annapolis, opened his shop in Church Street where he made and sold a variety of tables, including those specified for dining. Jonathan Swift sold “European Goods” in Alexandria in 1789. Among his “genteel assortment” were dining tables.(127)

Not all tables used for dining were specified as such. The fluid nature of the eighteenth- century household organization meant that furniture of all types were moved around the house as needed, with many pieces serving multiple functions. Tables, together with chairs, were perhaps the most common forms treated this way. Large or small, round or square, probably most tables in an elite household served at one time or another as a “dining” table for one individual or several. Although only two of the family inventories specifically designate dining tables, all contain tables that may be assumed to be dining tables based upon descriptions and appraised values. Of the five family inventories only MASON63 lacks either a designated or assumed pair.

Tea Tables

Tea tables are perhaps the most ubiquitous specialized table form which occurs in eighteenth-century documents, appearing in 76% of the REI studied. Given the number of tables without designated function, the actual number is undoubtedly higher. The ritual of tea drinking, while widespread across economic and social strata by the third quarter of the eighteenth century, had its beginnings as an important component of elite hospitality in England and colonial America. Though no longer exclusively the provenance of the elite, tea drinking and its accompanying accouterments were still an important part of the furnishings of genteel Chesapeake households. The tea table with its generally small size and range of forms was an expected component of this ritual.(128)

Many documents provide evidence about this table form. Among George Washingto's papers is an invoice in 1757 for “A fine Mahogany Tea Table,” as well as a record of the purchase of “a Tea Table and Appurts from Belvoir” the home of his wealthy neighbor, George William Fairfax.(129) Col. Charles Ridgely of Maryland, in 1763, included an entry “a Mehogany [sic] Carved Pilor [sic] & Claw table,”(130) which though not designated as a tea table is undoubtedly just that. It was probably similar in basic design to the table ordered by Charles Carroll, Barrister, in 1767. In the invoice of goods to be sent by his London agent, Carroll included:

One Round Tea Table two feet four inches in the Diameter or over--of the best Mahogany with a scallop'd Raised Edge cut in the solid wood and Handsome Carved feet and Carved in his ledger for and Fluted Pillar.(131)

This wonderful description gives a clear picture of a common form of tea table--a round, tilt-top table with a raised edge and an ornamental post with tripod legs and carved feet. As late as 1792, this type of table was considered fashionable enough to be among the stock of Annapolis cabinetmaker Archibald Chisholm. He sought to dispose of his excess merchandise through a lottery scheme which included among the prizes three mahogany “claw” tables.(132)

The use of the descriptor “claw” is not common in inventory descriptions. As early as 1752 and 1754, claw tea tables are listed in two Maryland inventories, (CMNGS52 and KEENE54), but usually the more complete descriptors employed by the inventory takers were adjectives such as small, square, or round. Two notable exceptions are both from the inventories of governors. Governor Botetourt's inventory taken in Williamsburg in 1770 notes a “scalop'd claw tea table,” and Governor Eden's inventory taken upon his departure from Maryland lists a “carved claw & piller tea table.”(133)

Among the family inventories, four of five (80%) specify tea tables. Only ELBCK65 does not list this form; however, the appearance of other tea equipage in this inventory strongly suggests that one or more of the “small” tables occurring in the inventory were in fact tea tables. Following on this assumption, family ownership of one or more tea tables would be 100%.

Card Tables

Card tables are a third type of specialized table form owned by many members of the Chesapeake gentry. They were listed approximately as often as designated dining tables but only about half as often as designated tea tables. It is, of course, possible that card tables, like tea and dining tables, were simply described in inventories by shape rather than specialized usage. Designated card tables occur in just under one-third (32%) of the REI.

Both Charles Carroll, Barrister, and George Washington ordered tables of this type. In August of 1758, Carroll ordered “1 square Mahogany Card Table about three pounds.” Almost a decade later, he ordered a second one. In February of 1767, Carroll requested “one Plain Mahogany Card Table straight Legs.”(134) George Washington, underscoring the flexible nature of eighteenth-century furniture use, ordered in 1758 “A Neat Mahay Card Table wch may serve for a dressg one.”(135)

Directly ordering such forms through English agents was not the only means of acquiring these tables. One could order from cabinetmakers in American cities such as Philadelphia or purchase such goods through local merchants who had both British and American contacts.(136) The October 5, 1752 issue of the Maryland Gazette notified readers that Stephen West had just imported “from London, A Compleat Set of Household and Kitchen Furniture of the very best Kinds” among which were “Tables of all sizes” and “card tables.”(137) Regional cabinetmakers could also supply the form for patrons, sometimes listing the form among those they advertised as making.(138)

Among the Mason family group of inventories, two specifically list card tables--George Mason's brother, Thomson (MASON86), and his son, Thomas (MASON00.) In addition, George Mason's order in 1780 for playing cards, while not necessarily predicating a card table, does suggest that Mason, like his neighbors, probably enjoyed a social hand of cards on occasion.(139) Supporting this supposition is the survival of a mahogany, English card table dating from the 1750s or 1760s. A strong family history states that the table came from Gunston Hall. This table, probably an urban piece, though not necessarily from London, is typical of the types of items being imported by Mason's contemporaries.(140)

Slab/Side Tables

The terms “slab table,” “side table,” and even “sideboard table” were used to describe a type of rectangular serving table used as a staging area for food and beverage service in gentry households. The term “slab” refers to the marble “slab” composing the top of many of these tables. After circa 1780 the term “sideboard” came to refer to the newly fashionable furniture form with drawers and compartments for holding equipage, which ultimately replaced the earlier form.(141) Such tables were an important component in the rituals of elite household entertaining, but were relatively uncommon even in elite households. They appear in not quite one-third of REI and in only one (20%) of the family group. Among the household furnishings inventoried in the household of Mason's son, George (MASON97), was “one marble slab with a Gilt frame.”

In addition to these pieces of documentary evidence, two surviving tables with Virginia histories suggest tantalizing possibilities. Among the furnishings surviving from Mt. Airy are two examples of marble top slab tables. The interiors of Mt. Airy, like those of Gunston Hall, were designed and executed by William Buckland and William Bernard Sears. Working there just two years after the completion of Gunston Hall, Buckland and Sears produced these remarkable tables which were clearly intended to be part of larger, elaborate architectural schemes. Interestingly, many of the elements found on the Mt. Airy tables echo architectural motifs found at Gunston Hall. The survival of a chair fragment from Gunston Hall with chinoisorie motifs suggests the same type of architecturally-inspired furniture may have been designed and produced by Buckland and Sears for George Mason. If such chairs were produced for Gunston Hall, why not a table or tables similar to those made for Mt. Airy?(142)

Other Table Types

Certain other use designations such as breakfast (or pembroke), ironing, kitchen, and writing are very occasionally used to modify the word table in the inventories studied. Of these types, only kitchen tables (12.7%) and writing tables (10.9%) occur in more than 10% of the inventories studied. None of these forms is listed among the tables in the family group inventories; however, it is likely that some of the undesignated tables in the family inventories served these purposes.

Tantalizing evidence of these small multi-functional tables is found in the small rectangular black walnut table, probably of Virginia origin, which descended in the family of George Mason's son, William. Given to the Virginia Historical Society in 1880, it was accompanied by a letter which stated in part:

This relic is the original writing table of George Mason and is undoubtedly the table upon which was written the “Bill of Rights.” the table first descended to his eldest son George--on his death to his second son William (my grandfather) and finally came into the possession of my father and thence to me--. . . This table. . . [is] almost as it was in Col: Mason's time--except, to the extent of some very injudicious attempts at repairs much after the war, to “reconstruct” where injuries had been done by Yankee vandals--They had knocked off the two bras[s] knobs of the drawer and injuried the curious old claw shaped feet of each leg. . . .(143)

Is it possible that that this small table is the one recorded in neighbor Martin Cockburn's ledger in a 1769 entry which reads, “To George Mason Junr. for a small Walnut Table 0. 6. 0” ?(144) While it is unclear why Cockburn would have had this transaction with Mason's then twelve- year-old son, it does presumably place a small, multi-functional table among the furnishings at Gunston Hall.


Total Tables:    8-9

Card Table:    1
Origin:    Britain
Date:    Circa 1755
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Material:    Mahogany

Dining Tables:    3; 1 pair, 1 single
Origin:    Chesapeake or Britain
Date:    1750-1780
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Form:    Pair of square, single oval
Materials:    Pair-mahogany or cherry; Single-black walnut

Slab/Side Table:    1
Origin:    Chesapeake
Date:    Circa 1759
Style/Form:    Reproduction of one of the Mt. Airy tables
Material:    Mahogany and marble

Tea Table:    1
Origin:    Chesapeake or Britain
Date:    1750-1770
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Form:    Pillar and Claw or Square
Material:    Mahogany

Other:    2-3
Origin:    Chesapeake or Britain
Date:    1750-1788
Style:    Determined by origin and date
Form:    Writing, work, multi-functional, etc.
Material:    Mahogany, walnut, cherry, or pine



Today when households contain multiple examples from the alarm clock to the one on the VCR, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate that clocks were not universal in the eighteenth century. In an era when most people regulated their days by the passage of the sun across the sky, clocks were not considered a necessary part of a household even among those elite individuals for whom cost was presumably not an obstacle.

In households owning clocks, examination of inventories suggests that clocks were most commonly placed in the public areas of a house such as the hall, passage, dining room, or parlor where all members of the household could have access to them.(145) This practice is echoed in the period poem “The Will of William Faris” by Charlotte Hesselius which notes that among the household goods to be left to the widow Faris was “the Musical Clock hind the door in the

Hall. . . .”(146)

Elite Chesapeake householders wishing to own a clock had a variety of options. They could purchase them from local craftsmen, either clock and watch makers or cabinetmakers who made clockcases or premade works, or they could order them from abroad through local merchants or agents. Silversmith Samuel Soumaien advertised in 1753 that he had “at his house in Annapolis A NEAT Eight Day Clock” as well as a “spring Clock with Chimes and Repeats.”(147) Four years later, William Faris self described watchmaker from Philadelphia now working in Annapolis, wanted the public to know that in addition to repairing clocks and watches, he also:

makes CLOCKS, either to Repeat or not, or to go either Eight Days or Thirty, as the Purchaser shall fancy, as good as can be made in London, and at reasonable prices.(148)

A decade and half later in 1773, Annapolis silversmith William Whetcroft included clock and watch making among the services he offered to the public. Interestingly, Whetcroft's clock making endeavors were probably in the nature of assembling the components rather than actually making the clocks himself. In the fall of 1772, Whetcroft placed a large order for jewelry, silver items, watches, and clock works including “4 Alarm Clocks to go Thirty Hours with Minutes & short Pendulam with good Bells, the Dial plates to be 6 inches square Arched & neatly Engrav'd.”(149) Whetcroft undoubtedly obtained the cases from local craftsmen, as clock cases were often among the goods advertised by cabinetmakers and included in account books.(150)

Occasionally, complete clocks were ordered from abroad. Charles Carroll of Maryland ordered in the fall of 1771:

A very good Eight day clock in a neat plain Mahogany case made in such a Principle as will be least liable to be out of order. The figures on the Plate very legible & not complicated to stand in a Hall f 10 feet and a half pitch. N.B. Apply for this Clock to Mr. Mankhouse Clock maker in Gloucester Street near Queen Square. . . .(151)

Clearly, Carroll had very specific ideas about what he wanted. Room height was no doubt included to serve as a guide for the cabinetmaker who would make the case. Less specific detail was given in a Wallace, Davidson & Johnson order for “1 Neat plain Eight Day Clock wth Case to Cost about 9 Guineas . . .”, with cost being the defining fact.(152)

Among the Rural Elite Inventories (REI) studied, clocks appear in 54% of the households. Of those households having clocks only 11% (3) have more than one example. Most clocks are unspecified as to type. When descriptive terms are used, eight-day is the most common, occurring with just over 17% of all clocks followed by chamber which described just over 10% of all clocks. Material is rarely given. Only Maryland inventories in the REI group cite material, with mahogany being the most common.(153) However, other documentation shows that additional woods were used. The account book of an unidentified Virginia cabinetmaker, possibly from the Fredericksburg area, includes a listing for a “Chiree tree Clock case.”(154)

Among the family inventories, all five (100%) show clock ownership. Only MASON97 includes any description, listing “one small chamber Clock, with Marble pillows & glass case.”(155) It is probable that this clock was an example of a mantel clock, possibly bought by MASON97 while in France, of the type that were to become increasing popular in the early nineteenth century. Values in ELBCK65 and MASON63 suggest that their examples were tall case clocks. The “old clock” valued at 6 in MASON00 may also have been a tall case form. Only MASON86's clock, valued at 5 is unclear as to type. Five pounds seems high for a chamber clock at this period but low for a tall case clock. It may be that value reflects factors such as condition or age that the inventory takers have simply failed to specify.

It seems highly likely that a tall case clock would have been among the furniture acquired by George Mason relatively early once he set up housekeeping. If not part of the furnishings owned by George and Ann prior to the completion of Gunston Hall, then such a piece would probably have been acquired in the decade that followed moving into the house. The increasing complexity of daily life at Gunston Hall would have made a centrally located clock a tool for the regulation of activities by the myriad people composing the extended Gunston Hall household.


Clock:    1
Origin:    British or Regional (perhaps with imported works)
Date:    1750-1770
Type:    Tall Case Eight Day
Style:     Determined by origin and date
Materials:    Determined by origin and date

decorative element

1. See Volume 1-Chapter Two of this report.

2. George Mason to George Mason, Jr. 3 June 1781, Robert A. Rutland, ed., Papers of George Mason, 1725-1792, 3 vols. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1760), 2: 689; see also DWNMN81 which reflects the practice of sending away household furnishings out of concern about British troops. Among the goods moved were items of furniture such as a dozen chairs with damask bottoms, looking glasses, a card table, and a mahogany chest as well as large quantities of tea and table china, a box of dessert glasses, a cruet stand with silver tops and a parcel of ornamental china. Probate inventory of Raleigh Downman, 19 July 1781, Lancaster County Will &c. n. 20. 1770-1783, fol. 200-204.

3. Note: Recommended numbers in those categories which include bedchamber furniture are in some cases higher than the statistical data alone would indicate. These numbers are based on the unusually large number of bedchambers at Gunston Hall.

4. See appendix for Gunston Hall Plantation Probate Inventory Database: FANTRY05, FLOOD76, MCCRTY73, PEACHY51, SMITH55, and CRAIKE55 .

5. Landon Carter, The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1752-1778, ed., Jack P. Greene, 2 vol. (Richmond: The Virginia Historical Society, 1987), 1:307.

6. Stephen Collins to Jonathan Armory [?], 26 December 1776, Stephen Collins Letterboook, 1776-1777, Container 59, Stephen Collins & Son, MssD., Library of Congress. (Hereafter LC).

7. Advertisement of John Anderson, Maryland Gazette, 28 October 1746.

8. Advertisement of William Govane, Md.Gaz., 28 October 1747.

9. Advertisement of Gamaliel Butler, Md. Gaz., 4 April 1747.

10. Advertisement of Peter Scott, Virginia Gazette (Hunter), 12 September 1755.

11. “To be Sold pursuant to the last will . . .” Md. Gaz., 17 May 1764; Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Benjamin Fendall, 15 July 1766, Charles County, Maryland, Register of Wills (Inventories) 1766-1773, fol. 1-11, (microfilm CR 39-592-1). Fendall's inventory, received after the inventory collection was classified, was not included among the group of Rural Elite Inventories used to compile statistical data.

12. Advertisement of Thomas Hall, Va. Gaz. (Dixon & Hunter), 28 November 1777.

13. Advertisement of James and Dummer, Virginia Journal & Alexandria Advertiser, 25 November 1784.

14. Invoice of Goods Ship'd on board the Jenny . . . and Invoice of goods shipt by James Brown . . . , Container 36, John Glassford & Company Records, 1753-1844, MssD., LC, nos. 33 & 137v.

15. Inventory of George Mason, Jr., 16 December 1799, Fairfax County, Virginia, Will Book H-1, 41.

16. See Ronald L. Hurst and Jonathan Prown, Southern Furniture 1680-1830 (Williamsburg, VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1997), 346-352 for a discussion of chest of drawers with secretary.

17. See Personal-Writing in this report for a discussion of the possibility of this form being a writing box or lap desk.

18. George Mason, Sen. Dr. Account of sale Belvoir, 15 August 1773, Fairfax Family Papers, Mss1 F1615 b4, Virginia Historical Society; George Mason to George Mason, Jr., 1 June 1787, Papers of George Mason, 3:893.

19. For a detailed discussion of this topic see Richard L. and Claudia L. Bushman “The Early History of Cleanliness in America” in The Journal of American History 74 ( March 1988): 1212-1238.

20. Some 18th-century dressing tables are not tables at all by current standards but include forms such as chests of drawers with fitted out drawers and “bureau tables” which resemble to modern eyes a type of small kneehole desk. Other more traditional table forms include a variety of numbers and configuration of drawers. See Hurst and Prown, 277-291 and 419-424 passim.

21. Invoice of Goods Shipped, August 1757, Series 5, Accounts and Financial Records of Mt. Vernon, Financial Papers 1750-96, George Washington Papers, MssD., LC. (Presidential Papers microfilm series no. 115 & 116).

22. Invoice to John Bland, 25 February 1763, Letterbook 1761-1775, Robert Beverley Papers, MssD., LC, 16-16v.

23. Invoice of Goods sent to William Anderson, 29 October 1766, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 36 (September 1941): 340.

24. Advertisement of William Lux, Md. Gaz., 8 August 1765.

25. Advertisement of James Ringgold, Md. Gaz., 7 October 1784.

26. Advertisement of John Shaw, Md. Gaz., 15 December 1791. The reference to “urn dressing glasses” refers perhaps to the shape of the mirror or possibly to a decorative inlay.

27. Order-Cabinet Ware, Goods to be Shipped, 10 March 1772, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson Order Book 1771-1774, Chancery Papers Exhibits 1773-1776, MSA no. 528-27, Maryland State Archives, 79; Order-Cabinet Ware, 26 October 1772, ibid., 113.

28. Thomas Lee Shippen to Dr. William Shippen, Jr., 30 December 1783, Thomas Lee Shippen Papers, MssD., LC; see also: Textiles-Hygiene in this report for a discussion of dressing table covers.

29. Brock Jobe, ed., Portsmouth Furniture: Masterworks from the New Hampshire Seacoast (Boston: Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, 1993), 278; Jobe cites Chippendale 1762, plates 54, 55. See also Lindsay Boyton, ed., Gillow Furniture Designs 1760-1800 (Royston, Herts, U.K.: The Bloomfield Press, 1995), fig. 111.

30. The Traverse inventory is too early to be included in the REI core group; the earliest wash stand in REI is AMBLER69.

31. Bushman, p. 1220, notes that Horace Walpole dipped his head into a bucket of cold water each morning; see also p. 1222 for a further discussion of the benefits of cold baths.

32. Recollections of John Mason, transcribed by Terry Dunn & Estella Bryans-Munson, Gunston Hall Plantation Library and Archives, 1989, revised, 1999, 11. (Hereafter “Recollections”).

33. Scheme of Goods for Occoquan Store for Fall 1760, ts. 5; List of Goods to be Shipped from Bristol to Colchester Store 1763, ts. 18; Ordered for Colchester Store, 20 October 1762, ts. 10; Scheme of Goods for 1765, ts. 11, Letter Book of Alexander Henderson 1760-1764, Box 20, Lloyd House, Alexandria Public Library, Alexandria, VA. (typescript at Gunston Hall).

34. Order consigned to Mr. James Glassford, 31 March 1761, Box 78, Neil Jamieson Papers, MssD., LC. (microfilm reel no. 5). No sizes are given for these glasses, so it is not possible to be more certain about their intended uses.

35. Order-Cutlery 25 April 1771, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 3; Order-Cutlery August 1771, ibid., 32; Order-Cabinet Ware 26 November 1771, ibid., 64.

36. A Scheme of Goods . . . to John Hart, 20 April 1777, Folder 125, Ph23, John Norton & Sons Account & Letter Books, Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

37. C.C. to Messrs. John Hanbury & Co., 15 November 1755, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 31 (December 1936): 306; C.C. to William Anderson, 20 August 1758, ibid., 32 (June 1937): 367-368.

38. Invoice of Sundry Goods C. C. to William Anderson, [15] September 1770, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 32 (December 1937): 367-368.

39. Charles Carroll to [?], 25 October 1771, Charles Carroll Letterbook 1771-1833, Arents Tobacco Collection, No. S0767, Rare Book Collection, New York Public Library, (microfilm, Maryland Historical Society).

40. William Reynolds to George F. Norton, 6 August 1773, and William Reynolds to John Norton, March 12, 1774, Letterbook, William Reynolds Papers, 1771-1796, MssD., LC.

41. Invoice of Merchandise Ship'd by William Bingham . . . to Jenifer & Hooe Merchants, 12 May 1777, Invoice of Goods received from Martinico, 16 May 1778, Hooe, Stone & Co. Invoice Book, 1770-Jan. 1784, Rare Book Collection, New York Public Library. (microfilm # 3005, Alderman Library, University of Virginia).

42. Advertisement of Robinson, Sanderson and Rumney, Va. J. & Alex. Advert., 12 October 1786; Advertisement of William Farris, ibid., 22 November 1792.

43. Dressing glasses were not considered as part of this subcategory; see Furniture-Hygiene.

44. For a discussion of sconces separate from looking glasses see Lighting-Sconces.

45. For Dressing Glasses, see Furniture-Hygiene.

46. The architectural evidence between the windows in the Palladian room is confusing. Current investigation has proved inconclusive as to whether anything hung there in the 18th century.

47. Hurst and Prown, 325-327.

48. Advertisement of Gerrard Hopkins, Md. Gaz., 9 April 1767; 10 October 1774; Unidentified Virginia Account Book, Document no. 533, Rare Book Room, Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum Library, Winterthur, DE.

49. See for example Charles Carroll Letter-Book, Order of November 18, 1784, Charles Carroll; Letter of Sarah Carlyle to her Uncle William Carlyle, 25 August 1769, John Carlyle Papers, Viginia Historical Society. Interestingly, despite this evidence of ownership, no instrument appears in the Carlyle inventory. Sarah Carlyle was already married at the time of her father's death. See also, Philip Vickers Fithian, Journal & Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian, 1773-1774: A Plantation Tutor of the Old Dominion, ed., Hunter Dickinson Farish (Charlottesville: The University Press of Virginia, 1968), 30,79 and Advertisement of John Prentis, Va. Gaz., (Purdie & Dixon) 27 May 1773.

50. For a more comprehensive discussion on music in 18th century Virginia, see: Judith S. Britt, Nothing More Agreeable: Music in George Washington's Family (Mt. Vernon: The Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, 1984).

51. Advertisement of Richard Caulton, Va. Gaz., (Parks), 21 November 1745; see also Nancy Goyne Evans, American Windsor Chairs (Winterthur, DE: The Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum, 1996), 65; among the chair forms which Cauthon included were Windsors. Evans states that the Cauthon notice is the first advertisement for Windsors made in America; Advertisement of John Anderson, Md. Gaz., 21 October 1746.

52. Advertisement of William Hayes, Md. Gaz., 30 September 1747.

53. Advertisement of William Govane, Md. Gaz., 28 October 1747.

54. Advertisement of Samuel Dorsey, Md. Gaz., 18 April 1765.

55. Advertisement of Philip Williams, Md. Gaz., 27 March 1766.

56. Advertisement of Gerrard Hopkins, Md. Gaz., 9 April 1767.

57. Advertisement of Francis Hepburn, Md. Gaz., 13 July 1769.

58. Advertisement of William Faris, Md. Gaz., 5 October 1769.

59. “To be Sold at Prime Cost at Mr. Aikman's Store,” Md. Gaz., 12 August 1773.

60. Advertisement of John Selden, Va. Gaz. (Purdie), 26 July 1776.

61. “To be Sold,” Advertisement of Walter Jones, Va. Gaz. (Dixon & Nicolson), 20 November 1779; Advertisement of Samuel Hanson, Md. Gaz., 26 December 1782.

62. Evans, 135; Hepplewhite noted in The Cabinet-Makers and Upholsterer's Guide that “for chairs, a new and very elegant fashion has risen within these few years, of finishing them with painted or jappaned work, which gives a rich and splendid appearance. . . .” See George Hepplewhite, The Cabinet-Makers and Upholsterer's Guide 3rd. ed., (London, 1794: Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1969), 3.

63. Advertisement of Jonathan Swift, Va. Gaz. & Alex. Advert., 19 November 1789.

64. Advertisement of Robinson, Sanderson and Rumney, Va. Gaz. & Alex. Advert., December 1785, 12 October 1786.

65. Advertisement of Ephariam Evans, Va. Gaz. & Alex. Advert., 20 October 1785; Advertisement of James M'Cormick, ibid., 11 May 1786.

66. Invoice . . . Shipd by Richd Washington, London, 20 August 1757, Series 5, George Washington Papers.

67. September 1757, to Mr. Richd. Washington, London, Series 5, George Washington Papers, [7].

68. Fort Loudoun, 15 April 1757, Invoice . . . to be shipd by Mr. Richd. Washington of London, Series 5, George Washington Papers.

69. Dr: Colo Adam Stephen, Jany 25, Jany 22, Cash Accounts, Vol. 1, Series 5, George Washington Papers, p.13; Cash, Contra, by Ditto [Colo. Stephen], Jany 22, ibid., p.19; Contra, 1760, Decr 16, By Lovett a New Englandman, ibid., p.112.

70. “Invoice of Goods to be sent by Robert Cary, Esqr.,” [27 September 1763], Series 5, George Washington Papers, p. [147].

71. “Invoice of Edwd. Polhill,” February 1764, Series 5, George Washington Papers.

72. "Invoice to James Gildart,” 5 June 1764, Series 5, George Washington Papers, [166].

73. “Invoice of Goods Shipped by James Gildart,” May 1765, Series 5, George Washington Papers.

74. Robert Beverley to John Bland, 1 July 1762, Beverley; Robert Beverley to Samuel Athawes, 10 February 1772, ibid.

75. Thos. Philpot, 22 April 1763, Folder 1763, Volume 69, Business Papers 1654-1819, Galloway-Maxey- Markoe Family Papers 1654-1888, MssD., LC. The invoice cost of these chairs, excluding packing, was 216. Galloway's inventory, circa 1785, lists “2 mahogany arm chairs and 12 Do. Common Do.” at 19, see Samuel Galloway Estate, Volume 87, ibid.

76. Robert Carter, Esqr. Dr. [John Attwell], November 1770, Carter Family Papers, Mss1 C2468a1039-1210, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond; Gusler places John Attwell in Westmoreland County, see Wallace B. Gusler, Furniture of Williamsburg and Eastern Virginia, 1710-1790 (Richmond : Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1979), 3; Robert Carter to Henry Morse, Esqr., 16 May 1771, Mss1 C2468 a 1120-1199, Robert Carter; Benjamin Bucktrout to Robert Carter, 6 June 1774, Mss1 C2468a 1254-1312, ibid.

77. William Reynolds to John Norton, 12 August 1772, Reynolds.

78. Invoice to Robert Bogle, London, Container 12, Papers of the Jones Family, Northumberland County, Virginia, 1749-1810, Roger Jones Family Papers, MssD., LC, no. 2344; Messrs Bogle & Scott bot of Kemp & Button, 17 Feb 1764, Container 13, ibid., no. 2447; Catesby Jones to Thomas, DR Account Book, 1786, Volume 23, ibid., no. 52107.

79. The evaluation of “Sets” postulates the original number of chairs in a grouping, i.e., nine matching chairs was assumed to originally have been part of a set of twelve. Actual number of chairs in inventories is less than total number of chairs in the assumed sets.

80. While these chairs now belong to Mason descendants who trace their ancestory back to John Mason, his line intermarried in the 19th century with cousins descended from George Mason of Lexington, opening up the possibility that these chairs were originally owned by George Mason V.

81. See Volume 1-Chapter Three of this report for a discussion of the importance of the porches in the overall architectural scheme of Gunston Hall.

82. For description of “Mason” family chairs not included here, as well as a more detailed history of the chairs described here, see the Gunston Hall Masoniania File.

83. Questions about original ownership of these chairs are raised by what is said to be an identical chair owned by a James Sorber. A paper label attached to that chair traces a history which lead back to George Washington. However, unless this chair can be examined next to the Gunston pair, it is difficult to say whether they are in fact from the same set, or merely from the same craft tradition or perhaps even the same shop. For further information see Gunston Hall file: Pending Objects: James Sorber.

84. These chairs were examined by Colonial Williamsburg curators Ron Hurst and Jonathan Prown in 1990 who made the Scottish attribution.

85. Conversation with Ron Hurst, summer of 1997.

86. Conversation with Jonathan Prown, February 1998.

87. For the discussion of the arrangement of sleeping forms at Gunston Hall, see in this report, Volume 1-Chapter Four-Room Use at Gunston Hall-The Domestic Spaces.

88. See Philip Vickers Fithian's description of incident at Nomini Hall in which a man breaks into the nursery. The description of the event implies that the slave girl, Sukey, is sleeping on the floor, in Fithian, 184-5.

89. From an 1857 edition of Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language as quoted in Gretchen Sorin and Ellen Donald, “Gadsby's Tavern Museum Historic Furnishing Plan” (Alexandria, VA: City of Alexandria, 1980), 96.

90. “Journal of Baron Von Closen,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 10 (April 1953): 222.

91. For a detailed description of possible curtain options see Hurst and Prown, 596-599.

92. Advertisement of Gamaliel Butler, Md. Gaz., 4 April 1754; Advertisement of Gerrard Hopkins, Md. Gaz., 9 April 1767. Locally made examples include: “To making two bedsteads @ 226,” Robert Carter, Esqr. Dr. [John Attwell], November 1770, Mss1 C2468a 1039-1210, Robert Carter; and Thomas Jones to George Haynie, May 1761, “1 Bedstead 5,” Container 21, Jones Family, Item no. 4650v. Haynie made all kinds of furniture: a child's chair, coffins, and a close stool, as well as doing house carpentry.

93. January 1767, 22 September 1773, 10 October 1774, 10 January 1775, Unidentified Virginia Account Book, no. 4650v.

94. Advertisement “For Sale,” Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, 13 October 1796.

95. Invoice . . . Shipped by Richd. Washington, August 1757, Series 5, George Washington Papers; Invoice . . . Shipp'd by Robert Cary, May 1759, ibid.; Invoice . . . Ship'd by Philip Bell Upholstery, August 1759, ibid.

96. Robert Beverley to Samuel Athawes, [1773?], Beverley, 43v-44r.

97. Robert Beverley to Samuel Gist, 14 April 1784, Beverley 75v-76r.

98. “To Be Sold,” Advertisement of P. Marsteller, Vendue-Master, Va. J. & Alex. Advert., 1 March 1787.

99. It is sometimes difficult to know where books are kept as they are often listed as a separate category by the inventory taker.

100. Receipt from Ben Waller, 12 October 1771, Mss1 c2468 a 1121-1199, Robert Carter; 19 February 1775, Capt. Saml Layton, Vol. XIII (1773-1776), Robert Carter Day Book, Special Collections Department, William R. Perkins Library, Duke University; Fithian, 45.

101. Advertisement of Gerrard Hopkins, Md. Gaz., 9 April 1767; Advertisement of William Slicer, ibid., 13 July 1769; Sale of Catalogue of Library of Hon. William Byrd, Esqr., Va.Gaz. (Hunter & Dixon), 19 December 1777. It should be noted that Bryd's library was one of the largest in colonial Virginia.

102. 20 July 1773, Unidentified Virginia Account Book.

103. George Mason to George Mason, Jr., 1 June 1787, Papers of George Mason, 3:893.

104. Hurst and Prown, 529-533.

105. Order-Cabinet Ware, 2 April 1773, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 144.

106. 28 September 1760, Series 5, George Washington Papers, [68].

107. Invoice of Philip Bell, March 1761, George Washington Papers.

108. Hurst and Prown, 330, 332.

109. Evaluation from a photograph by Ron Hurst, June 1997.

110. Molly Tilghman to [Polly Pearce], 29 January [1787], MHM, 21 (September 1926): 234.

111. CC of C to Dr. Papa, 30 October 1769, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 12 (September 1917): 284.

112. Recollections, 31. Twentieth century usage sometimes refers to this form as a “chest on stand.”.

113. Indenture between Rinaldo Johnson and Thomson & William Mason, 27 April 1802, Prince George's County Deed Book 1798-1802, Maryland State Archives, (microfilm no. CR 49, 543), 216-221; for a discussion of patterns of female inheritance see Barbara McLean Ward, “Women's Property and Family Continuity in Eighteenth-Century, Connecticut,” in Early American Probate Inventories, Peter Bennes ed., The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife: Annual Proceedings 1987 (Boston: Boston University, 1989), 74-85.

114. Robert Beverley to Messrs. William Anderson & Co., 6 September 1791, Beverley, no. 104.

115. Invoice . . . to be sent by Robert Cary, Esqr. 20 July 1767, Series 5, George Washington Papers.

116. Invoices in the hand of Elizabeth Jones, Container 10, Jones Family, nos. 2031, 1821, and 1839.

117. Orders-Trunks, 20 March 1772, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 69; Orders-Trunks, 26 October 1772, ibid., 113; Orders-Trunks, 25 April 1771, ibid., 8.

118. Advertisement of Balfour & Barraud, Va. Gaz. (Purdie & Dixon), 25 July 1766.

119. Col. Geo. Mason, Dr., 27 August 1766, Piscataway Ledger 1766, R8, C24, Glassford, 111; Col. George Mason, 5 August 1767, Ledger 1767, Piscataway, Maryland, R9, C26, ibid., 214.

120. Dressing tables are not counted in this group but are addressed and tabulated Furniture-Hygiene.

121. Invoice . . . goods to be Ship'd by Mr. Richd. Washington of London, 15 April 1757, Series 5, George Washington Papers; see also: Invoice . . . sent by Richd. Washington, 10 November 1757, ibid.

122. CC to Mr. William Anderson, 20 August 1758, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 32 (June 1937): 187.

123. Robert Pleasants to Dear Brother, 10 May 1772, “Letters of Robert Pleasants,” William and Mary Quarterly, 2nd ser., 2 (October 1922): 266.

124. "Dear Brother,” 1 October 1772, “Letters of Robert Pleasants,” WMQ, 2 (October 1922): 272.

125. Robert Beverley to John Bland, 25 February 1763, Beverley, no. 16v.

126. Accounts for James [James], 2 October 1786, and Thomas Lee, 22 November 1786, Smith, Huie & Alexander & Co., Dumfries 1786-1787, MssD., LC.

127. Advertisement of Philip Williams, Cabinet-Maker, Md. Gaz., 27 March 1766; Advertisement of Francis Hepburn, ibid., 13 July 1769; Advertisement of Jonathan Swift, Alex. Gaz., 19 November 1789.

128. See Julia B. Claypool, “Tea Customs in Virginia, 1700-1783” (master's thesis, Cooperstown Graduate Programs, State University of New York College at Oneonta, 1984), 65-70.

129. Invoice . . . Ship'd by Rich. Washington to Colo. George Washington, 20 August 1757, Series 5, George Washington Papers; 1762 Contra Account, 1 May 1762,Volume 1, ibid., 128.

130. 16 April 1763, Col. Charles Ridgley Ledger 1763-1765, MS691, Box 19, Ridgley Family Papers 1757- 1784, Maryland Historical Society. The reference to pillar and claw is a period designation for a tripod form of table often used as tea tables.

131. Invoice of Goods to William Anderson, 26 March 1767, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 37 (March 1942): 61.

132. “A Scheme of Lottery,” Advertisement of Archibald Chisholm, Md. Gaz., 19 April 1792.

133. See Appendix, Gunston Hall Probate Inventory Database: CMNGS52, KEENE54, BTTORT70, and XEDEN76.

134. CC to Mr. William Anderson, 20 August 1758, “Letters of Charles Carroll, Barrister,” MHM, 32 (June 1937): 187; Chas. Carroll to Mr. William Anderson, 24 February 1767, ibid., 37 (March 1942): 61.

135. Invoice to Thomas Knox, January 1758, Series 5, George Washington Papers, p. [11].

136. John Galloway to Thos. Ewing & Co., 11 April 1788, Folder: July-December 1788, Volume 72, Business Papers, Galloway, no. 84.

137. Advertisement of Stephen West, Md. Gaz., 5 October 1752.

138. Advertisement of Gerrard Hopkins, Md. Gaz., 9 April 1767; Advertisement of Archibald Chisholm, ibid., 10 May 1792; See also the entry for Robert Carter's debt to the estate of Williamsburg cabinetmaker Peter Scott for two card tables, entry for 30 December 1777, Vol. 14, Robert Carter Day Book, 146.

139. John De Neufville & Son to George Mason, 22 July-28 August 1780, Papers of George Mason, 2:666. Mason ordered “1 doz. Packs playing cards,” at the cost of 28.

140. Conversations with Ron Hurst, July 1998, based upon his examination of a photograph.

141. Hurst and Prown, 262.

142. For a more complete discussion of the Mt. Airy tables see Hurst and Prown, 264-269.

143. See Gunston Hall Curatorial Files for a transcription of the letter of July 26, 1880 from George Mason to Col. John Ott, a director of the Virginia Historical Society.

144. 10 Decr. To George Mason Junr., Entry for 19 Feby 1769, Martin Cockburn Ledger, 1769, MssD., LC.

145. Hurst and Prown, 541.

146. Lockwood Barr, “William Faris, 1728-1804 Silversmith, Clock and watch Maker of Annapolis, Md.” MHM, 35 (Dec 1940): 429.

147. Advertisement of Samuel Soumaien, Md. Gaz., 5 July 1753.

148. Advertisement of William Faris, Md. Gaz., 10 March 1757.

149. Advertisement of William Whetcroft, Md.Gaz., 27 May 1773; Order from William Whitcraft [sic], 14 November 1772, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson 121.

150. Advertisement of Gerrard Hopkins, Md. Gaz., 9 April 1767; Advertisement of William Slicer, ibid., 29 June 1769; 2 June 1773, Unidentified Virginia Account Book.

151. Invoice E4R, 25 October 1771, Charles Carroll Letter Book 1771-1783.

152. Cabinet Ware, 20 March 1772, Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, 79.

153. None of the Virginia Rural Elite Inventories cite materials.

154. 2 June 1773, Unidentified Virginia Account Book.

155. Inventory of George Mason, Jr.,taken 10 January 1797, entered 16 December 1799, Will Book H-1, Fairfax County, Virginia, fol. 38.

© Gunston Hall Plantation 2002