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From: Gronning and Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition,"American Furniture(2013):37
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Chest of drawers

Object number



Maker, attributed to John Townsend, American, 1732/33–1809


Height: 36 1/8 in. (91.758 cm) Width at base: 38 1/2 in. (97.79 cm) Depth at base: 20 1/8 in. (51.118 cm)



Current location

Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State


Made in Newport, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar (secondary); eastern white pine (drawer backs)




“A,” in chalk, on exterior back of top drawer; “M” and “Moeses,” in graphite, on interior bottom of top drawer; “B C D E,” in graphite, on exterior back of second drawer from top; illegible graphite, on interior back of second drawer from top; “C,” in graphite, on exterior back of third drawer from top; “D E F,” in graphite, on exterior back of bottom drawer; “A B C D F,” in graphite, on top of divider under upper drawer; illegible chalk, on top of divider under second drawer from top; “C,” in chalk, on top of divider under third drawer from top; “Bottom,” in chalk, on exterior case bottom; "1928 December 19 [misisng text]," printed in red and blue ink on fragment of paper label affixed to underside of writing surface


Redwood family, Newport, Rhode Island; by descent to the Underhill family, Providence, Rhode Island, and the Milnor family; by descent to James Milnor, Woodstock, Connecticut; consigned to Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, January 30-31 and February 1, 1975, lot 1084; sold to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1975

Associated names

Mr. and Mrs. James Milnor
Milnor Family
Underhill Family
The Redwood family


The oblong, single-board top is molded on its front and sides. It is supported visually by a cove molding, face-nailed with brads, which extends beyond the case back slightly, where it returns upon itself. The top is secured to its case by two boards fixed to its underside with rosehead nails and glue and presumably dovetailed to the single-board case sides. The case back consists of three half-lapped vertical boards (the proper right board of later date) fixed with brads and rosehead nails into rabbets in the proper left case side and directly to the case bottom and the rear sub-top board. Nails holes in the proper right side of the central back board do not correspond with any interior elements, suggesting that it has been re-used. The cockbeaded case stiles are applied with wood-filled fasteners; there is integral cockbeading at the top rail and drawer dividers. There are nails in the underside of the board behind the top rail. The drawer dividers and their dust boards behind are set into grooves in the case sides. Within the case are tip bars fixed with rosehead and other nails to the sub-top boards, and drawer supports fixed with rosehead nails to the case sides. Vertical rectangular drawer stops nailed to the case sides occupy the interior corners. Full-depth supports for the bottom drawer are nailed with brads to the top of the case bottom. The case has no bottom rail. A block-fronted base molding is fixed with wood-filled fasteners to the case sides and to blocking behind it in front. A portion of the central concave part of the base molding is a separate piece and aligns with the rectangular blocking behind the flanking convex portions. Behind the base molding are two horizontal chamfered glue blocks. The two-board case bottom, flush with the underside of the base molding, meets the case sides in dovetail joints having small, finely cut thick-necked pins. The drawers are block-fronted; the flanking convex portions are applied and the central concave portions are reinforced with interior blocks held on with nails and glue. The central concave shell of the upper drawer is carved from the solid; the flanking convex shells are applied, and are separate from the applied convex portions of drawer front below them. The upper drawer lacks hardware, and can be opened only by means of a spring latch nailed with brads to the underside of its drawer bottom. In the front end of the latch is a hole by which the drawer may be pulled. The board shows signs of various former nails. The drawer fronts, which bear short kerf marks, meet their slightly shorter arch-topped sides in dovetail joints, having finely cut narrow-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with grooves below. The single-board full-width drawer bottoms, parallel to the fronts, are chamfered at the front where they fit into grooves and at the sides, where they are nailed into the drawer sides in a manner obscured by the replaced drawer runners. They are nailed with brads to the bottoms of the drawer backs. A thin reinforcing strip is nailed into the back of the concave portion of the drawer front at the underside of each drawer bottom. The inside faces of the upper-drawer sides are fitted with later ledgers. Shadows and nail holes within the upper drawer suggest that it was once fitted with partitions. The rear edge of the drawer back tops are slightly chamfered. Each front foot consists of shaped mitered horizontal blocks attached directly to the case bottom. Attached to the underside of the joint between the blocks is a vertical rectangular block, and the whole is faced with ogee bracket feet, the front brackets of which are convex-blocked and scroll-carved. At the rear feet the blocks are not mitered and the back brackets are simple straight-profiled trapezoidal brackets. The profiles of the back edges of the rear feet?s ogee brackets are straight. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, August 24, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.


The shells with fleur-de-lis centers on this chest of drawers are related to those of the document chest RIF21.

See also


Clement E. Conger, Alexandra W. Rollins, and Mary Itsell, Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991), 124-5, no. 45, Accession no. 75.2, ill.
Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Americana, sale cat. (January 30–February 1, 1975), lot 1048, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 27, 103, fig. 1.8, 1.8a, 3.11.
Sotheby's, New York, The Exceptional Lieutenant Colonel Oliver Arnold Mahogany High Chest, sale cat. (January 21, 2012), 13, fig. 5.
Erik K. Gronning and Amy Coes, "The Early Work of John Townsend in the Christopher Townsend Shop Tradition," American Furniture (2013): 37–38, fig. 83–85.