18th-century Furniture Craftsmanship & Patronage in Marblehead

March 27, 2015 @ 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Salem Athenaeum
337 Essex Street
Salem, MA 01970
$5 or $10 donation to the Salem Athenaeum
Jean Marie Procious

Talk about 18th-century furniture craftsmanship & patronage in Marblehead on the eve of independence


Inspired by the exquisite exhibit of furniture by Nathaniel Gould at the Peabody Essex Museum (on view through March 29),  this fully illustrated talk about furniture craftsmanship & patronage in Marblehead on the eve of independence will look at the production of fine quality furniture in 18th-century Marblehead, just four miles away and across the harbor from Salem, at the same time that cabinet-makers like Nathaniel Gould were working in Salem.


While Marblehead is well known for its 18th-century architecture and its dramatic role in the American Revolution (epitomized by the “Spirit of ’76” painting and the iconic image of General George Washington crossing the ice-choked Delaware River – a feat made possible by the town’s rugged fishermen, mariners and tradesmen), few people realize that artisans in the town also produced fine furniture that was equal to what was made elsewhere in colonial-period America.


At the time, Marblehead was actually larger than Salem by about 700 people, and was about the sixth or seventh largest town in British North America.

Pieces of high quality created in Marblehead are in major museums and private collections. Locally, examples are in the Peabody Essex Museum, the Concord Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  Pieces by all five of Marblehead’s principal furniture makers can be seen in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion, which has been owned and preserved by Marblehead Museum & Historical Society since 1909, when it is open seasonally, June through October.


The Gould exhibit and its accompanying catalog reflect years of meticulous work by furniture scholar Kemble Widmer of Newburyport and respected genealogist Joyce King of Salem.

Their extensive research was made possible by the discovery of account books for cabinet-maker Gould in the Nathan Dane archival collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.


The talk will also include the story of patronage by Colonel Jeremiah Lee of Marblehead, one of Gould’s “best” and “most important” clients, in the words of two of the Gould catalog’s authors  –  for his grand new mansion in Marblehead, which has been owned and preserved by the Marblehead Museum & Historical Society since 1909, and for the marriages of the Lee family’s eldest son and daughter.  Those topics involve some remarkable surprises discovered by the Gould research and several stories of compelling social history.


The talks will be presented by social and cultural historian Judy Anderson of Marblehead, former curator of the Jeremiah Lee Mansion. Anderson wrote an article about Marblehead cabinet-makers in the May 2003 issue of The Magazine Antiques with Kemble Widmer, the principal researcher of the Gould exhibit, who has studied Marblehead furniture for more than two decades.  She is also the author of a fully illustrated award-winning book about the Lee Mansion’s superlative and rare original hand-painted English wallpapers –– one of only two suites of such papers known in the world, and the only ones still in their original locations.


The talk is offered at the Hawthorne Hotel on Monday, March  16th  at 7:30 pm (donations requested, to benefit the Marblehead Museum / cocktails available for purchase); Salem Maritime National Historic Site / ENHA Visitor Center on Thursday, March 26 at 7 pm (free) and at the Salem Athenaeum at 11 am on Friday, March 27th  (donations requested, to benefit the Salem Athenaeum).


For further information about the talks, contact Judy Anderson at 781-631-7162  or  email MarbleheadTours @ aol.com.