Four Centuries of Furniture in Portsmouth

—with the NH Furniture Masters

Friday, April 7 – Sunday, June 18, 2017, at Discover Portsmouth.

Opening Gala: Thursday April 6, 2017, 5-7:30pm

An accompanying exhibition catalogue has been generously underwritten by Craig & Alison Jewett, and the Jewett Family. For more information, please call 603-436-8433; online purchases will be available soon.

Organized by Gerald W.R. Ward and Lainey McCartney, with the NH Furniture Masters

Portsmouth Historical Society is preparing dual exhibitions for the spring of 2017 to celebrate and document the important history of furniture in Portsmouth during the past four centuries, and to present outstanding work by some of today’s premier woodworkers.


Sideboard. Attributed to Judkins and Senter (w. 1808–26). Portsmouth, ca. 1815. Mahogany, mahogany veneer, flame birch veneer, pine

Kettle stand

Kettle stand. Attributed to Robert Harrold (w. 1765–92). Portsmouth, 1765–75. Mahogany, white pine, cherry

Furniture—one of the most commonly used artifacts of everyday life—helps us understand shifts in taste and style, evolving social customs and behaviors, and changes in technology and economics. On the first floor of Discover Portsmouth’s galleries, a loan exhibition of about 50 objects will interpret furniture made and used in Portsmouth as both art and history, starting with the joined furniture of the 17th century, through the colonial and federal periods of Portsmouth’s heyday of cabinetmaking, and finishing with the revival styles of the 19th century. The exhibition will conclude with examples from the Arts and Crafts and studio movements, including an important rocker from Rock Rest, furniture used at the Portsmouth Peace Treaty in 1905, and a few modern examples of locally owned and retailed works of the 20th and 21st centuries—perhaps even an IKEA chair for contrast. Changes in how furniture has been regarded over time will be explored, including the transition from its role as a symbol of status and wealth, as well as the evolution of Portsmouth from a furniture-making center to a primarily retail market.

High chest

High chest of drawers. Joseph Davis (w. 1726–62). Portsmouth, 1735–45. Black walnut, walnut veneer, birch, eastern white pine

Featured objects in the exhibition will be drawn from distinguished private and public collections, including several works from Portsmouth Historical Society’s holdings. While furniture will be the focus of the exhibition, the display will also include some paintings, prints, and smaller objects to provide visual variety, as well as a few carefully selected documents.

Concurrent with the downstairs exhibition, the upstairs gallery will include a display of works made by 15-20 members of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters (NHFMA), an elite group of woodworkers from throughout New England including Jon Brooks, David Lamb, Richard Oedel, Jeffrey Cooper, and others. This NHFMA display will be accompanied by works in other media, and will also include examples of the NHFMA’s important Prison Outreach Program. According to Curator Gerry Ward, “We’re excited about the broad, diverse audience this two-part show will bring – the first floor exhibition may more likely draw the traditional decorative arts crowd of collectors, dealers, and scholars, while the contemporary craftsmanship and woodworking featured in the balcony would draw craftsmen, decorators and interior designers.”

Free Lecture Series

The exhibition will be accompanied by a five-part lecture series. Click Here for more information

Thank you to this exhibition’s sponsors!

(A partial list — more to come!)

Mr. & Mrs. Craig Jewett, and the Jewett Family
Ronald Bourgeault
Hollis Brodrick
Peter Eaton
Peter Sawyer Antiques
Aileen Dugan-State Farm Insurance
Gary F. Yeaton
Nathan Liverant and Son Antiques
Bernard & S. Dean Levy, Inc.
The Meader Family

The exhibition catalogue has been generously underwritten by Mr. & Mrs. Craig Jewett, and the Jewett Family.