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Photo: Courtesy Collection High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Gift in loving memory of Nancy Fraser Parker by her husband William A. Parker, Jr., and her children William A. Parker III, Isobel P. Mills, and Richard C. Parker, in honor of her devotion to decorative arts and love of beautiful furniture, 2007.123
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Desk and bookcase


Object number

RIF1447

Maker

Maker Thomas Spencer, 1752 - 1840

Dimensions

Height, with finial: 222.25 cm (87 1/2 in.); Width, upper case: 94.298 cm (37 1/8 in.);Width, lower case: 97.155 cm (38 1/4 in.); Depth, upper case: 25.4 cm (10 in.); Depth, lower case: 55.245 cm (21 3/4 in.)

Date

1775

Current location

High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Geography

Made in East Greenwich, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)

Medium

Mahogany (primary); maple (bottom of bookcase); chestnut (bookcase backboards, desk bottom board, backing for drawer dividers, blocks at joint of lower rail and bottom board, blocks for feet, and rear feet brackets); yellow poplar (some linings for the interior drawers); cherry (bookcase shelves, dividers, and top board); white pine (desk backboards, exterior drawer linings, some interior drawer linings, pediment backboard, pediment sheathing boards)

Marks

None

Inscriptions

"X," "XX," "XII," and "IXX," in chalk, spanning horizontal joints of backboards; "B," in graphite, on underside of bottom of desk; "1" to "11," in graphite, on interior backs and interior front corners of interior drawers starting at the proper right upper corner from top to bottom, left to right; "1" to "6," in graphite, on interior backs and interior front corners of valance drawers from left to right; "A" to "D," in graphite, on interior backs of exterior drawers from top to bottom; an "I" or "1," in graphite on interior front corners of exterior drawers; "N.Y. Mills 1856," in graphite, on proper right interior side of interior drawer marked "2"; "This bookcase and secretary formerly owned by Mrs. Anna Thomas and her successors," in graphite, on proper left interior side of same drawer; "[illegible]originally belonged to Gen'l Natahnial Greene/[illegible] who died in 1786 Born 1742/[illegible] been in later possession of/ (? Hubbard)/[illegible] for some sixty years at New York Mills/ Oneida N.Y./[illegible] uncle Phineas Miller married/ [illegible] Isaac Miller father of Phineas Miller furnished/Eli Whitney with money to perfect the cotton gin. Eli Whitney/lived at Mrs. Greene-Miler's [sic] home [inserted above the line "in Georgia"] a tutor, he was Yale 1792 died 1825/Cost of refinishing desk & new handles 30.95/Passed down in direct line to William Walcott Middle/bury ct," in graphite, on underside of interior drawer marked "1," partially legible because of rubbing; "Phineas Miller/at Yale College/He [illegible]/children.," in graphite, crosswise on underside of same drawer hear back edge; "21/Walcots," in ink, on paper label with red borders and canted corners glued to proper left top corners of back of desk and the bookcase

Style

Chippendale

Provenance

Nathanael Greene (1742–1786), Warwick, and Coventry, Rhode Island, and later Savannah, Georgia; by descent to his wife, Catherine Littlefield Greene (1755–1814), Block Island and Coventry, and later Cumberland Island, Georgia; by descent to her second husband, Phineas Miller (died 1803); Anna Thomas; by descent to Phineas Miller's neice, Mrs. William D. Walcott (née Hannah Coe Hubbard, 1817–1905), New York Mills, New York; by descent to her grandson, William S. Walcott, Jr. (born 1871), Litchfield, Connecticut; by descent to his son, William S. Walcott III (1913–1997), Middlebury, Connecticut. Kenneth Hammitt, Woodbury, Connecticut, 1968. Deanne D. Hall (born 1939), Atlanta, 1974; sold to Nancy Fraser Parker (1931–2005) and William A. Parker, Jr. (born 1927), Atlanta, 1974; given by him and his children to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 2007

Associated names

General Nathanael Greene
Catharine Littlefield Greene
Phineas Miller
Hannah Coe Hubbard
William S. Walcott, Jr.
William S. Walcott III
Kenneth Hammitt Antiques
Hallmark Antiques
Nancy Fraser Parker
William A. Parker, Jr.

Construction

BOOKCASE. The back of the bookcase are vertical boards half-lapped together and nailed to rabbets in the case sides and to the top and bottom boards that are dovetailed to the case sides. There is a half key at the front and a half tail at the rear and five full dovetails between them. The backboard of the pediment is one-piece. The shelves and dividers on the bookcase are stationary. DESK. Half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer fronts to the sides on the valance drawers; the bottoms are glued to rabbets in the front, sides and back; the top edges of the drawer sides are rounded with slight chamfers; the back edge of the back is chamfered. The larger interior drawers have similar construction; the drawer sides are slightly lower than the drawer fronts; the kerf marks on the interior and exterior drawers are long and coarse. Behind the drawers in the prospect section a strip of wood runs vertically; it pierces the top of the desk and is secured to the backboards with a nail driven from the back; it also pierces the backing board of the writing section below. Most of the openings for the interior drawers have glue blocks; backboards at the openings for the pigeon holes are stained. No pins are visible on the batten ends of the slant front; the tenons are visible on the ends of the battens near the hinges; the hinges have been reset. The mahogany desk top is dovetailed to the two-piece case sides as is the bottom board.The five horizontal backboards are nailed to rabbets in the top and sides and to the back edge of the bottom board. Half-blind dovetails fasten the top rail and the drawer divider to the case sides; the bottom rail fits in a groove in the case sides. The lopers are half height and the muntins next to them fit in grooves in the rail above and the drawer divider below. Half-blind dovetails fasten the drawer fronts to the drawer sides on the exterior drawers; on the lowest drawer there are half keys on the top and bottom and four full dovetails between them. The top edges of the drawer sides are rounded with slightly chamfered edges and they are slightly lower than the drawer front; the top edge of the drawer back is chamfered on the back. The grain on the two-piece drawer bottoms runs from side to side; the bottoms have evident jack plane marks; the bottoms are chamfered on three sides and fit in grooves in the front and sides; the backs are nailed to the underside of the backs with three rosehead nails. Three long blocks, the center one with a chamfered back edge, reinforce the joint of the bottom rail and the case bottom; the base moldings are attached to the sides of the case with nails driven from the exterior. Horizontal blocks that rest against the case bottom reinforce the feet as do vertical blocks that in turn rest upon them. The back feet have brackets that butt the sides of the rear feet and have ogee outlines on their inner edges. Examined by P. E. Kane, October 2009

Bibliography

Patricia E. Kane, "A Newly Discovered Rhode Island Cabinetmaker Thomas Spencer of East Greenwich," Antiques 177, no.3 (April/May 2010): 114–119, ill.
"Kenneth Hammitt Antiques advertisement," Antiques 94, no. 3 (September 1968): 263, ill.
Patricia E. Kane et al., Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2016), 308, 358–361, 449, 450, no. 75, fig. 12–13.