Lot 2003
  • 2003

Very Rare Pilgrim Century Joined Cedarwood Chest of Drawers, possibly by the joiner Henry Messinger or Ralph Mason, Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1685

12,000 - 18,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Cedrela
  • Height 36 1/2 in. by Width 37 1/2 in. by Depth 21 7/8 in.
appears to retain its original cast brass hardware; feet replaced.


Joe Kindig, Jr., York, Pennsylvania;
Mr. and Mrs. Louis Appell, York, Pennsylvania;
Sotheby's, New York, Sinking Springs Farm: The Appell Family Collection, January 18, 2003, sale 7867, lot 1002;
Alan Miller, Quakertown, Pennsylvania.

Catalogue Note

The London-style joinery of Boston is widely recognized as the most advanced shop tradition of the Anglo-American colonies during the seventeenth century.  This tradition was founded by the early immigrant joiners Ralph Mason (1599-1678/9), who arrived in 1635, and Henry Messinger (in Boston by 1641-d. 1681).  Both were trained in London and both trained four sons in the joinery trade.  By the 1670s, they and their apprentices dominated Boston's joinery trade, a fact acknowledged in the Petition of Handycraftsmen of Boston of 1677, wherein Mason and Messinger signed their names at the head of the list of sixteen Boston joiners.

Chests of drawers were the specialty of the tradition.  Some were built in two cases, but others like this example were built in one.  Chests from this shop were constructed with imported tropical hardwoods or native hardwoods other than oak as a primary.  These include native walnut and juniper, as well as imported rosewoods, snakewood, ebony and cedrela.  

The Boston origins of this chart are demonstrated by its secondary woods.  Like other chests associated with the Mason and Messinger shop, this chest features a sophisticated architectural façade and a high quality London-style construction. 

Another Boston chest of drawers, in a private collection, combines juniper and rosewood as the primary woods.  A chest at Yale University offers the exotic hardwoods of snakewood, lignum vitae, rosewood, and Spanish cedar (see Gerald Ward, American Case Furniture, 1988, no. 51, p. 125).  One at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston of oak, pine and walnut is illustrated in Richard Randall, American Furniture in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1965, no. 26, pp. 32-3.

Sotheby's would like to thank Robert F. Trent for examining this chest and providing research for the catalogue.