38. Four Centuries of Furniture in Portsmouth

Four Centuries of Furniture in Portsmouth

with the New Hampshire Furniture Masters

Softcover, 88 pgs, full color, 8.5 x 9, ISBN: 978-0-915819-45-4. $24.95

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For many years, the early furniture of Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Seacoast has been of interest to collectors and connoisseurs. This catalogue, featuring about sixty works from many public and private collections, re-visits some of the classic pieces of Portsmouth furniture, including works by Robert Harrold and the firm of Judkins and Senter.

It also brings to light newly discovered seventeenth-century objects and others attributed to Joseph Davis and his fellow artisans of the eighteenth century. In addition, the catalogue includes several objects, made elsewhere, that are associated with significant aspects of Seacoast history and culture. These include a constellation of furniture associated with the Portsmouth Peace Treaty negotiations of 1905; an arts and crafts rocker used at Rock Rest in Kittery Point, Maine, an important site in African American history; and “Molly’s Table” of ca. 1750, an ordinary object made extraordinary by having been owned by Molly Miles, an enslaved person. Everyday, vernacular objects are also a focus of this work, including a silversmith’s chest of drawers, a French and Indian war soldier’s “foot locker,” a sailmaker’s bench used at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and several examples of children’s furniture.

The result is a snapshot in miniature of four hundred years of Seacoast history as embodied in the furniture made and used in the region.
The catalogue also includes a picture portfolio of contemporary studio furniture created by members of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association. These modern masterpieces in a variety of styles indicate the ongoing vitality of fine furniture making in New Hampshire and New England.

About the Author(s)

Gerald W.R. Ward is the consulting curator, Portsmouth Historical Society, and the Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture Emeritus, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Hollis Brodrick, a member of the New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association, is an experienced specialist in the decorative arts and artifacts of the American colonial period, particularly of the Seacoast region. He is a Life Member of the New Hampshire Historical Society and lives in Portsmouth.

Lainey McCartney is the Curatorial Associate of the Portsmouth Historical Society.

The New Hampshire Furniture Masters are committed to promoting the art of fine furniture making. Founded in 1993 as a means of continuing the state’s legacy of fine furniture making, the association now includes about two dozen artists. Although many of the masters are from the Granite State, some hail from other New England states. For them all, “building furniture is not simply a job, it is a way of life.” Their outstanding work, known for its variety of traditional and innovative designs always expressed through excellent craftsmanship, is now in many museum and private collections. For more information, see www.furnituremasters.org.