The Cabinetmaker’s Account: John Head’s Record of Craft & Commerce in Colonial Philadelphia, 1718-1753, by Jay Robert Stiefel
Suffolk-born joiner John Head immigrated to Philadelphia in 1717 and became one of its most successful artisans and merchants. However, Head’s prominence had been lost to history until Jay Stiefel’s discovery of his account book at the American Philosophical Society Library. Head’s account book is the earliest and most complete to have survived from any cabinetmaker working in British North America or in Great Britain and offers a 35-year ‘moving picture’ of an 18th century cabinetmaker’s daily life.
Historian, lawyer, and collector Jay Robert Stiefel is an authority on the crafts and commerce of Colonial Philadelphia and the institutions founded by Franklin for the welfare of its tradesmen. He studied history at the University of Pennsylvania and Christ Church, Oxford. Stiefel’s writings and lectures on social history have restored to the historical record many early craftsmen, artists, and merchants whose prominence had been obscured by the passage of time.
Jay introduced his new book at three venues (these lectures have now all taken place):
Tuesday April 30th at 5:00 p.m. Christ Church, Oxford. Free, but booking required via the Christ Church website.
Wednesday, 1 May 2019, 6.00pm – 8.00pm Benjamin Franklin House, 36 Craven Street, London WC2N 5NF Cost: £28 – see the Furniture History Society website.
Thursday, May 9th. 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Lyon & Turnbull, Broughton St. Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 557 8844 for details.
Tomorrow, Wednesday 16th January at 9pm, More 4 is broadcasting the first of two programmes called the £4 Million Restoration, which may be of interest to members. It documents the restoration of a Landmark Trust farmhouse in the Black Mountains, dating from c 1400. A new dating technique has been used which is claimed to work on timber previously undateable by conventional methods.
Further information is available in this article in The Guardian: newspaper: Welsh farmstead is rare medieval hall house, experts confirm and the programme details can be found here: Historic House Rescue.
The Spring 2019 edition (No.70) of the RFS Newsletter is now available to members. It features reports of recent Society events and a number of illustrated articles on regional furniture:
- Letter from America – Daniel Ackermann
- An unrecorded medieval chest at St Mary’s church, Horsham – Chris Pickvance
- Medieval chests in Kent – Chris Pickvance
- The Landkey Parish Table purchased by the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon – Alison Mills
- Joseph Newton’s Windsor chair advertisements, 1725 and 1729 – Julian Parker
- Windsor chairs at Newstead Abbey – Julian Parker
- John Bray of Bourne, Lincolnshire, Windsor chair-maker – William Sergeant and Julian Parker
- The myth of the patinated Windsor chair – Bob Parrott
- A caned library chair by John Syers at Broughton Hall, North Yorkshire – Brian Crossley
- A little wider please: a barber-surgeon’s chair – Jeremy Bate
- Fashionable furniture in Haverfordwest: a card table by William Owen – Sarah Medlam
- Unlocking the Geffrye – Emma Hardy
- Lawrence Neal, chair-maker: when is a chair more than a chair?
- Sitting Firm
- The rush-seated chair: a celebration of past, present and future
- V&A Dundee: The Scottish Design Galleries
The Newsletter is published twice a year, and is one of the benefits of RFS membership. A full list of articles in previous editions can be found here: Newsletter research articles
We have had the following request from the Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion at the V&A. Please respond directly to the email or phone number given below rather than to the RFS.
Would any member be interested in volunteering to help maintain the library and research files in the Furniture and Woodwork section at the V&A? We need help rationalising our research papers, and accessioning and auditing existing books. If you live in the London area and would be interested in offering time on a regular basis, please contact Kate Hay, Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion, email@example.com or 0207 942 2292.
The latest RFS Newsletter out now and available to members. There are several interesting notes in this Autumn edition:
- Letter from America by Daniel Ackermann
- A Forest chair in Colonial America by Bob Parrott
- Darvel chairs: J. McKellar, a new maker by Crissie White
- 16th-century panelling and a canopy from the Neptune Inn, Ipswich by Liz Hancock
The Newsletter includes two additional notes by curators discussing objects in their collections:
- The Guardian’s chair from Leah Mellors of the Ripon Museum Trust and
- A Warwickshire Press Cupboard, by Rosalyn Sklar at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
There are also reports on recent events, featuring the February meeting at the V&A on New thinking about 16th-century furniture, with summaries of the papers by Chris Pickvance, Megan Wheeler, Michael Pearce, Nick Humphrey and Yannick Chastang. Notes on the Glasgow conference on Charles Rennie Mackintosh include a summary of this year’s Christopher Gilbert Memorial Lecture by David Jones on Scottish vernacular sources for Mackintosh’s furniture designs.
Another wonderful publication was released last year by one of the Society’s members and former Newsletter editor, Noël Riley. The Accomplished Lady – a history of genteel
pursuits c. 1660–1860 is a richly illustrated “study of the skills and pastimes of upper-class women and the works they produced during a 200-year period.”
Noël Riley has written and lectured extensively on the decorative arts and is a
consultant at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London. Her previous books include Penwork: A Decorative Art, The Victorian Design Source Book, Gifts for Good Children – the History of Children’s China 1790–1890, and pocket guides to Tea Caddies and Visiting Card Cases. She has written for many art periodicals, both academic and popular, and for many years she contributed to Historic House, the journal of the Historic Houses Association.
The book is, of course, available in all good book shops!
For more in formation see here, The Accomplished Lady – leaflet, and the review in the RFS Spring Newsletter 2018.
Members will by now have received their copy of the latest RFS Newsletter, featuring reports of recent Society events as well as a number of short illustrated articles and queries on regional furniture. The Newsletter is published twice a year, and is one of the benefits of RFS membership.
The copy date for the next Newsletter is 31 July 2018. Please send MS Word files (without embedded images) and separate high-resolution images (jpegs or tiffs), preferably by email, to firstname.lastname@example.org.