Chests of drawers did not exist in England or America before the 1640s. Instead, blanket chests and cupboards were used for storage. Evidence of the earliest use of chests of drawers appears in English probate inventory records in the 1640s in well-to-do urban merchants' households. As it was largely the merchant class who settled in Massachusetts, it should be no surprise that the type of furniture merchants used in London was popular in the new colony as well. Two reasons for the success of these types of chests were their size and convenience. They fit into small urban households and the drawers provided much easier access to its contents.
Three closely related chests of drawers survive; one that descended in the Pierce family of Dorchester, Massachusetts, and is listed in John Pierce's probate inventory of 1744 as "a chest of drawers in the West Chamber" and valued at £2; the other in the Layton Art Collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum. They are discussed in Nancy Carlisle, Cherished Possessions: A New England Legacy, (Boston: Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, 2003), pp. 98-100, no. 27, and in Gerald W.R. Ward, ed., American Furniture with Related Decorative Arts, 1660-1830: The Milwaukee Art Museum and the Layton Art Collection (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1991), 32-35; and also in Francis Puig and Michael Conforti, eds., The American Craftsman and the European Tradition, 1620-1820 (Minneapolis, MN: Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1989), 39-40.
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