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Photo: Courtesy Diplomatic Reception Rooms, United States Department of State, Washington, D.C., 71.86
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Chest of drawers

Object number



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


Height: 33 3/4 in. (85.725 cm) Width at base: 37 7/8 in. (96.203 cm) Depth at top: 20 1/2 in. (52.07 cm)



Current location

Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State


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


Mahogany (primary); yellow poplar, chestnut, and southern yellow pine (secondary)




“M,” in graphite, on exterior bottom of second drawer from top; “C,” in chalk, on exterior back of third drawer from top; “M,” in graphite, on exterior bottom of third drawer from top; “D,” in graphite, on exterior back of lower drawer; illegible inscription, in graphite, on exterior back lower drawer; drawing [of finial?], in graphite, on exterior proper-left side of lower drawer; “M” [twice], in graphite, on exterior bottom of lower drawer; possibly “M,” incised on exterior bottom of lower drawer; “V” or “X” [twice], in graphite, on exterior of drawer bottoms at center front; illegible graphite, on underside of top and on exterior bottom boards; “A” [twice], in graphite, on top of divider under second drawer; “Mercer St” [later], in graphite, on interior of one backboard; "No 1," "No 2," "No 3," "No 4" [later], in graphite, on exterior drawer bottoms [from bottom to top]


A Mr. Aldrich, about 1917; by descent to his daughter; sold to Roland Hammond, North Andover, Massachusetts; sold to William H. Coburn (1890–1980), Chestnut Hill, and Westport, Massachusetts; sold to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, Department of State, Washington, D.C., 1971

Associated names

William H. Coburn
Roland B. Hammond


The oblong, single-board top is molded on its front and sides and overhangs the backboard. It is supported visually by a beaded cove molding which extends beyond the case back and returns upon itself. The top is secured to its case by two boards fixed to its underside with screws and dovetailed to the single-board case sides, which joint is concealed by the cove molding. Two rectangular glue blocks are attached to both the front edge of the rear board and the underside of the top, and one rectangular and two chamfered glue blocks are attached to the underside of the front board and the back of the top rail. The two-board case back appears to be replaced. The single-board case sides meet the two-board (the rear board is replaced) case bottom in dovetail joints with finely cut, thick-necked pins. The cockbeading at the case stiles and top rail is nailed on with brads; on the drawer dividers it is integral. Within the case, the top and bottom rails and drawer dividers are half-blind dovetailed to the case sides. Behind the divider between the top two drawers is a full-depth dust board. Later tip bars are nailed into the case sides; later drawer supports are attached with screws. Supports for the lower drawer are nailed into the top of the case bottom. The central, concave shell of the frieze-drawer front is carved from the solid; the flanking convex shells are applied. The lower block-fronted drawer fronts are all cut from solid boards and all four very slightly kerf-marked fronts meet their slightly shorter, arch-topped sides in dovetail joints with finely cut, narrow necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The full-width single-board drawer bottoms are parallel to the fronts and chamfered there and at the sides, nailed with brads into the front rabbets, and attached to the drawer sides in a manner concealed by full-depth runners. The bottoms are nailed with brads to the flat-topped drawer backs. Some drawers have small rectangular stops nailed and/or glued to their outside rear corners. The bottom rail is fixed to the case bottom by brads through its upper surface. The feet and their blocking are replaced. Examined by P. E. Kane and J. N. Johnson, August 21, 2014; notes compiled by T. B. Lloyd.

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), 123-124, no. 44, ill.
Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, N.J.: MMI Americana Press, 1984), 165, fig. 3.89.
Oscar P. Fitzgerald, American Furniture: 1650 to the Present (Lanham, Md.: The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2018), 85, 87–88, fig. 4.53, 4.54, 4.56.