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Published: 10 April 2018

A Glimpse of Early American Life

A remarkable collection relating to prominent Quaker families of Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester Counties will be offered in the April 25 American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction. The collection is comprised of decorative objects and furniture, as well as related manuscripts, printed pamphlets, books, journals and correspondence from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

Connected by marriage and often through membership in the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, families represented in the collection include Richardson, Sharpless, Haines, Cadwallader, Randolph, Eastburn, Mendenhall, Newlin, Stackhouse, Taylor and Clark. The material descended to the Moon Family of Bucks County and Virginia, and the present consignor lovingly organized the manuscripts and preserved the early handwritten notes accompanying the decorative objects. 

Among the items with intriguing provenance is a Chippendale walnut tall case clock with a silvered composite brass dial engraved, “John Wood, Philadelphia.” A handwritten paper label inscribed, “Belonged to Jane Clark...see sampler,” is affixed to the waist door. 

Jane Clark (1790-1858) was the second daughter of Philadelphia board merchant, Samuel Clark (1735-1802) and Hannah Richardson Clark (1749-1817).  Hannah Richardson was the daughter of the preeminent Philadelphia silversmith Joseph Richardson and his second wife Mary Allen, and was sister to the silversmiths Nathaniel and Joseph Richardson, Jr; she married Samuel Clark in 1787. The Clark family resided at No. 38 North 5th street in Philadelphia, with Samuel’s shop next door at No. 40. This information would have been difficult to uncover, if not for the existence of Jane and Mary (her sister) Clark’s remarkably similar samplers. Worked in 1798 and 1800, respectively, each is inscribed, “Daughter of Samuel & Hannah Clark.”

Another handwritten note in the family files, probably written by Jane Clark herself, further elucidates the clock’s provenance, recording, “This clock was the property of Nathaniel Allen who died in the year 1757.” Nathaniel was Jane’s great grandfather, who left his clock to his daughter Hannah Allen, who then bequeathed it to Jane’s mother, Hannah. The clock is likely the work of early and prolific clockmaker, John Wood, Sr., who died in 1760 or 1761 (it should be noted that his son, John Wood, Jr., is thought to have been working with his father as early as 1750).

Another item of note is a walnut and pine chest-on-frame made in the Philadelphia area during the first quarter of the 18th century. The chest retains most of its original brasses, and though it appears to have been cut down, the feet are period, turned and doweled. Furniture historian Adam Bowett has published an early 18th century English joiner’s trade card showing a chest-on-frame with similarly short legs, suggesting such forms may have been made in England and possibly in the Colonies. The chest’s dust boards bear inscriptions suggesting that in 1813, when Jane Haines (1793-1884) married James Burgess Moon (1782-1855), this piece was a cherished relic in the ancestral Moon Family home, Woodbourne, located in Middleton Township, Bucks County.

“Nothing brings us home to the contributions made by American families to the fabric of American republic life and continent as intimately—and materially—as this collection,” Freeman’s Vice President and Senior Specialist of Books, Maps & Manuscripts, David Bloom said. “They almost seem to form themselves, over several generations, into archives of inexhaustible cultural and historical (and even aesthetic) interest. This archive, formed out of more than 200 years of the private (even internal) and public lives of the related Quaker Randolph, Sharpless, Cadwallander, Eastburn, Moon and other early Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania, is richly representative of this principle.”

View more from the American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction

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