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  • American Federal Birch Inlaid Chest of Drawers c. 1788
  • American Federal Birch Inlaid Chest of Drawers c. 1788
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Fine American Federal Birch Inlaid Chest of Drawers c. 1788

ITEM #: 701IRB30Z

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Probably Coastal Massachusetts, c. 1788-1800
Item # 701IRB30Z 

An incredibly powerful piece of craftsmanship, the timbers chosen for this angular chest are simply exceptional.  The rare and highly desireable flamed birch has been cut into matchbooked veneers on the drawer fronts to create a remarkably dramatic facade.  Ebony and light wood stringer inlays separate these veneers from the crossbanded mahogany border finished in applied cockbead molding.  The edge of the rectangular top matches the banding around the base, a simple vertical inlay framed between two light wood stringers.  The sides and top of the case are cut from single planks of beautifully figured mahogany and the chest rests over splayed feet with an unusually dramatic lift, the toes terminating with a steep taper and slight outward kick, the soft curvature of the inner edge broken in a gentle spur flanking the bow of the apron on the front and sides.  The form is closely related to works in Massachusetts, particularly Salem and Boston.  It’s brasses are original and are stamped PEACE over a morning dove holding an olive branch in it’s beak with eleven leaves that signify the union of eleven United States, notably New York in 1788.  Interestingly the drawers are not graduated and are identical in size, leading the craftsman to note on the inside of each drawer in large period script “No. 1, 2, etc.”, though this has largely worn off.  The underside and reverse of the chest are gorgeous with their entirely untouched structure; the blocking in the feet is rather complicated, a piece of pine laid vertical inside the foot and shaped to be invisible from all angles; this is set with a pair of horizontal blocks triangulating the foot with the apron.  The top of the chest is hide-glued to a pair of battens, these dovetailed into the front and back of the case.  Secondary woods are eastern white pine.

For the collector of the finest in American Federal period works of art, this is an exceptional selection with carefully preserved originality.  Angular and noteworthy for it’s fine design and rich use of material, it is a piece that will please even the most particular connoisseur.


  • American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, vol. II, 1981, p. 515, f. 1231 [flamed birch chest, Salem Massachusetts]
  • American Antiques from Israel Sack Collection, vol. IV, 1981, p. 961, f. P3723 [secretary, identical bow skirt and feet with gentle spurs; Massachusetts]
  • The Furniture Masterworks of John and Thomas Seymour, Mussey Jr., 2003, p. 238-43

Measurements:  38” H x 40 1/2” W x 19 1/2” D

Condition Report:
Old refinish, surface in excellent condition with beautiful patina.  Original brasses.  Untouched feet and backboards.  Drawers with some runner repairs, shrinkage cracks in bottom boards, some case runners replaced.  No key.