Collections on Display
In 1807 Bernard Cermenati opened a looking glass store at 10 State Street in Newburyport, where he remained only two years before removing to Salem at the end of 1809. This labeled looking glass was purchased to embellish the low-ceilinged parlor of the seventeenth-century Coffin house on High Road in Newbury. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Coffin house had been legally divided and was inhabited by two families, cousins who were the fifth and sixth generations of Coffins to live in the house. Edmund Coffin (1764-1825) married his second wife in 1809. The wedding perhaps provided the occasion for the purchase of this looking glass, a fashionable and expensive addition to the family’s most public room.
Oak Dining Table
This seventeenth-century dining table was made in England, and features block, ring, and baluster turnings with rectangular stretchers. Tables like these were used for dining and for work, and were the primary piece of furniture, along with a chest, in a seventeenth-century hall.
Adult or Invalid Cradle
This mid-eighteenth-century cradle was designed for the comfort of elderly or ill family members. The rocking motion of a cradle provided adults with the same pain alleviation that it provides a child, and also helped to decrease the incidents of bed sores and improve circulation.
A milk-skimming ladle made from a hollow coconut shell may seem like an odd accessory for a Newbury buttery, but Newburyport’s role as a bustling trade port meant that nearby towns had ready access to tropical goods. This ladle was used in the nineteenth century by the Coffin family, along with the other baskets, boxes, and earthenware on display.
Soon after completing the imposing front range addition to their house, the Coffin family built this cupboard, designed for the display of the family pewter and the storage of other kitchen objects. The remarkable number of pewter chargers and plates are a testament to the Coffin family’s increasing fortunes, but also reflected light back into the room, as the cupboard faces a south window. Its survival, in place, with the Coffin family pewter still displayed, is a remarkable example of the continuity of the Coffin House collection over the centuries.