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Photo: Courtesy private collection; photo by Christopher Gardner
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High chest of drawers

Object number



Maker Unknown


69 1/4 × 38 × 20 in. (175.9 × 96.52 × 50.8 cm)



Current location

Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art


Possibly made in Providence, Rhode Island
(view a map of Rhode Island)


Maple (proper left side of case, drawer divider dovetailed to sides); white pine (drawer sides, dividers between lower drawers, blocks at top of front legs, drawer supports, top of upper case, drawer front); yellow poplar (proper right side of case); chestnut (drawers sides and backs)




"X," in chalk, center exterior back of all drawers in upper case; "Top [?]," in chalk, underside top; "I" and "II," incised, on drawer backs and interior of drawer fronts on proper-left and proper-right small drawers in a line of three drawers in upper case; "1" and "2," in chalk, on underside near back of same small drawers; an arch, in chalk, on upper side of deep dustboard under three drawers in a line; "VB," in chalk, near front interior edge of bottom board in upper case; "v," pointing inward, on top of drawer divider below middle long drawer in upper case; "X," in chalk, on exterior back of lower case


Possibly Samuel Backus (1693–1740), Norwich, Connecticut; by descent to his wife Elizabeth Tracy Backus (died 1769), Norwich, Connecticut; by descent to their son Rev. Isaac Backus (1724–1806), Norwich, Connecticut and Bridgewater and Middleborough, Massachusetts; or from the family of his wife Susanna Mason Backus (1725–1800), Rehoboth, Bridgewater, and Middleborough, Massachusetts; by descent to her eldest daughter Mrs. William Nelson (née Hannah Backus, 1750–1827), Middleborough and Taunton, Massachusetts; by descent to her younger sister, Mrs. Parker Allen (née Lois Backus, 1760–1853), Middleborough, Massachusetts and Canterbury, Connecticut; by descent to her son, Nathan Allen (1787–1880), Canterbury, Connecticut; by descent to his son, Nathan Allen, Jr. (about 1825–1889), Canterbury, Connecticut; sold by his widow, Sarah Allen, to his niece, Mrs. Charles Thompson (née Abby Frances Allen, 1848–1935), Danielson and Hartford, Connecticut; by descent to her son, Arthur Ripley Thompson (1872–1960), West Hartford, Connecticut; by descent to his daughter, Mrs. Edmund R. Harrison (née Marjorie Thompson, 1903–1980), East Orange, New Jersey and West Hartford, Connecticut; by descent to her eldest child, Anne Carter Harrison (1926–2017) and her husband Robert Everett Carroll, Jr.; by gift to the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.

Associated names

Susanna Mason
Reverend Isaac Backus
Hannah Backus
Nathan Allen Jr.
Arthur Ripley Thompson
Abby Frances Allen
Marjorie Thompson
Lois Backus
Nathan Allen
Anne Carter Harrison
Robert Everett Carroll, Jr.


The upper case has an elaborate cornice, two-board case sides and one shallow long drawer over three deeper small drawers, over three long drawers graduated in depth, all of the fronts cross-banded and veneered. Inside the case are full-depth blocks, attached to the case sides with rosehead nails, which prevent the upper drawer from tipping. The small drawers below have a full depth dustboard upon which are set drawer guides in line with the drawer dividers. The long drawers have drawer supports fixed to the case sides with rosehead nails. Vertical rectangular drawer stops are glued into the rear corners. A portion of the drawer divider between the first and second full depth drawers is revealed through the case sides, whose fronts, like the drawer stiles and dividers, are double-cockbeaded. The drawer fronts are secured to their drawer sides by dovetail joints, having large thick-necked pins with half-pins above and half-pins with rabbets below. The flat-topped drawer sides are shy of the drawer front tops. The small drawer bottoms consist of a single flat board, perpendicular to the drawer front, nailed with brads up into the drawer backs and further secured by full-depth applied runners. The large drawer bottoms are constructed similarly, but are parallel to their fronts. The multi-board upper case bottom is fitted with glue blocks which allow it to rest within the molded frame atop the lower case. The lower case contains drawer guides, attached to the case sides, which are set in grooves in vertical rectangular blocks in the rear corners. The three lower drawers, two deep and one shallow, are separated by full-depth stiles, secured to the skirt with rosehead nails. Each drawer has a support lapped and nailed with a brad to the skirt board. The extensively scalloped, cock-beaded skirt sits above elaborately turned legs, joined by a scalloped stretcher, on turned bun feet. Examined by P.E. Kane, January 27, 2010; notes compiled by T.B. Lloyd

See also


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), 2, 19, 21, 152, 154n2, 157, 160–161, 234, no. 11.