PROPERTY FROM GALLISON HALL, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: THE JAMES F. SCOTT COLLECTION
This chest is attributed to Cotton White (ca. 1774-1826), a cabinetmaker working in Hatfield, Massachusetts, based on comparisons with a tall-case clock signed and dated by him in a private collection.1 With a history of descent in the family of the Hatfield historian Daniel White Wells (b. 1842), this clock has a movement by Isaac Gere (1771-1812) and is signed by White on the backboard and dated “Jany th 26 1795.” Cotton White was the son of David (1748-ca. 1778) and Roxcella Warner White and he owned both a blacksmith shop and cabinet shop on the main road in Hatfield. He was also an inventor for his 1826 estate inventory listed patents for “a machine for making wheels” and a lathe to turn broom handles.
Cotton White’s signature on the clock at Historic Deerfield has allowed for a group of related case pieces with a similar combination of lavish carved, turned and inlaid decoration to be ascribed to him. The surviving body of work indicates that he made large and impressive case pieces for wealthy patrons in the Northampton area. He used Georgian design principles to construct his case pieces, which he ornamented with design motifs popular since the 1740s, such as bracket feet, chamfered pilasters, and deep cornice moldings, combined with neoclassical elements such as the swags and inlaid decoration.
One piece from the group is a bonnet-top secretary bookcase at Historic Deerfield with a history in the Billings family of Hatfield and Deerfield.2 It has identical details to this chest including a drapery swag-carved tympanum, flowerhead-carved terminals, pierced Corinthian capitals, lattice-work frieze, herringbone inlays, drawers with beaded edges, and a three-dimensional bird finial. The finial on the Deerfield example is apparently original and differs from the finial made as a replacement for this chest in that the wings are slightly raised. A cherry chest-on-chest at Historic Deerfield with the same history in the Billings family as the aforementioned desk-and-bookcase also represents the White shop tradition. It features the details found on this chest of a cornice containing a frieze of Gothic arches, an egg-and-dart molding, and clusters of herringbone inlays on the lower sections of the fluted canted corners.3
Additional pieces that are similar to this chest on chest and part of this group of casework attributed to Cotton White include a cherry chest-on-chest nearly identical to the one at Historic Deerfield that sold at Parke-Bernet Galleries, January 11-13, 1945, lot 611 as the property of Mrs. J. Ramsay Hunt; a cherry desk-and-bookcase in the Holzer Collection with closely related carved Corinthian capitals and a history in the Flagg family;4 and a cherry desk-and-bookcase closely related to the aforementioned example but with solid paneled doors that was sold by GKS Bush to Mr. and Mrs. Forbes Ramsey. With their block-and-shell facades and scrolled bracket feet, the latter two pieces showcase Cotton White’s ability to work in the fashionable urban styles of nearby Boston and Newport. One other related piece includes a desk-and-bookcase cited by Historic Deerfield that is illustrated in The Magazine Antiques (May 1974): p. 979.
This chest has a history in the Stoddard family of Northampton, Massachusetts and was originally owned by Solomon Stoddard (1736-1827), grandson of Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729), the pastor of the Congregationalist Church in Northampton and the major religious leader in the area at the time known as the “Puritan Pope of the Connecticut River Valley.” Solomon was a graduate of Yale College in 1765 and High Sheriff of Hampshire County. He married Martha Stoddard (1739-1772) and this chest was likely among the furnishings at the Manse, their home on Prospect Street in Northampton, which still stands today. The chest-on-chest was next owned by their son, Solomon Stoddard (1771-1860). A graduate of Yale in 1790, he studied under Caleb Strong, a Northampton attorney, U.S. senator, and future Massachusetts governor. Solomon became a successful lawyer in Northampton while also serving in the civic roles of register of deeds, town clerk, chief justice of the court of sessions, court clerk, and state representative. He and his wife, Sarah (1771-1852), had eight children and lived at a house on Elm Street in Northampton, which is today part of Smith College. This chest was next owned by their son Solomon Stoddard Jr. (1800-1847) and his wife, Frances (1808-1883). It descended to their daughter and then to cousins before it was sold out of the family in 1922.
1 See Gerald Ward and William M. Hosley, eds. The Great River, Art and Society of the Connecticut Valley, 1635-1820 (Hartford: Wadsworth Atheneum, 1985): fig. 243.
2 Historic Deerfield accession no. HD 1232. See Dean A. Fales, Jr., The Furniture of Historic Deerfield (New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, 1976): no. 481, 481a-c, pp. 242-3.
3 See ibid, no. 452.
4 See Philip Holzer, Philip and Ann Holzer Collection (privately printed, 1990): no. 26, pp. 74-81.
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