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Chest of Drawers

1980.79 (RS32562)


Blockfront chest of drawers. Mahogany with white pine secondary wood. Shell carved drop. Beaded edge surrounds drawer openings. Rests on ogee bracket feet. Original brass pulls and locks. Escutcheons surrounding keyhole replaced.


Taken from Boston to the wilds of the territory now known as Maine, this chest of drawers suggests the close ties people in the eighteenth century maintained with Boston even after they moved away. According to a surviving bill of sale, Jonathan Bowman, cousin of Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock, purchased the chest of drawers from cabinetmaker George Bright in 1770, the year of Bowman's marriage to Mary Lowell Emerson. Gentlemen often had new household furniture made during the year of their marriage. The chest bears a stylish mahogany blockfront façade, characterized by protruding and recessed drawer fronts. Bowman transported the chest to his home in newly-settled Pownalborough, Massachusetts (present-day Dresden, Maine), where he held prominent positions including collector of the excise and justice of the peace. This chest attests to Bowman's desire to live as a Boston gentleman despite having moved to the northern frontier.
"Cherished Possessions": This chest of drawers was made in 1770 by the Boston, Massachusetts, cabinetmaker, George Bright, for newlyweds Jonathan and Mary Lowell Emerson Bowman. Bowman had moved from Boston to Pownalborough, Maine, in 1760 to oversee his uncle's business interests there. The move proved lucrative. When he and his new wife set up house, they could afford the best available furnishings.<br/> For George Bright, furniture making was a family business that included his father, brother, and all five of his sons. Clearly successful, Bright's tax assessment of $120 in 1780 was matched by only one other cabinetmaker. A contemporary noted Bright was “esteemed the neatest workman in town."
Bright, George, 1726-1805 (Cabinetmaker)
Location of origin
Associated Building
Original To Bowman House Main House.
eastern white pine (wood)
mahogany (wood)
Object type
Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts)
Massachusetts (United States)
Descriptive terms
case furniture
Chest Of Drawers
chests of drawers
eastern white pine (wood)
mahogany (wood)
31 x 39 x 20 11/16 (HxWxD) (inches)
Accession Number
Credit Line
Gift of Miss Florence L. Bixby
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Title Looking Glass Accession number 1980.80