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Windsor Armchairs & Settee, mid 18th century
Used to store everything from grains, spices and dried fruits to combs, sewing accessories, jewelry, tobacco and documents, these boxes were often decorated as gifts.
Oval Shaker Boxes, ca. 1840-60
The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing became more commonly known as ”Shakers” because of their ”ecstatic and violent bodily agitation” in worship. A Christian sect founded in 1747 in Manchester, England they emigrated to America to avoid persecution. Their first settlement was in New Lebanon, New York and eventually eighteen other communities were established, reaching a total number of 5.000 devotees during the decade preceding the Civil War.
Though men and women lived separately in Shaker communities, they believed in gender equality; they also believed in celibacy, common property and the second coming of Christ.
The Shakers were hard working, excellent farmers and equally great artisans who embraced new technologies and used them to create fine furniture, tools, equipment and artifacts, guided by the principles of simplicity, utility and honesty.
Perhaps the best known of these artifacts are their distinctive oval storage boxes secured with swallowtail ”fingers” or laps. Oval box making began in the 1790s at the New Lebanon, New York, community (the Shakers’ spiritual centre) as one of the first Shaker industries, and survived well into the 20th century. While boxes were produced for use by the Shakers themselves, the vast majority were sold to outsiders, becoming one of the Shakers’ most profitable commercial products.
Little did the first settlers know that, two hundred years later, their simple, honest designs would be admired by art enthusiasts as museum pieces!
Sargent Claude Johnson, 1888-1967
Untitled (screen for pipe organ)
July 16th, 2017