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Tall chest of drawers

Odessa, Delaware

1793 or earlier


John Janvier Sr. (1749–1801)


59 in x 43 1/4 in x 21 3/4 in


Mahogany; sweet gum* (also called red gum, drawer sides and backs, backboards), tulip poplar* (backboards), Atlantic white cedar* (drawer bottoms, some full dustboards), loblolly (Pinus taeda, a species of resinous or hard pine that grows in Delaware and south)* (drawer blades and some dustboards)

Credit Line

On loan from Winterthur

Accession Number



“Aug.t 30th 1793 Received of Mr. Thomas Burnham N[ine Pounds] / Ten Shillings It being in full for a Mahogany Case of [Drawers] / which was had By Miss Jane Burchard / Åí9..10 / Jn Janvier” in ink on paper is pasted onto the inside of the top middle drawer.

Condition Notes

The brasses on the two lower drawers have slightly different backplates and are replacements. Some drawer lips have been repaired, and a split in the left front foot facing has been reglued.


Acquired from James L. Wise of Wilmington, whose mother bought it in the Middletown, Delaware, area.


A contemporary paper receipt pasted inside a drawer rescues this tall chest of graduated drawers from anonymity. It acknowledged payment by Thomas Burnham (1762–1802) to the maker, John Janvier, on August 30, 1793. The somewhat convoluted wording reveals that this tall chest must have been ordered by Jane Burchard of the Middletown, Delaware, area, before her death in 1791. She was Burnham's sister-in-law and may have taken delivery of the chest a few years before he reconciled her account at her death.

This chest has sweet gum drawer sides. That particular wood is relatively rare in Mid-Atlantic regional cabinetmaking, but it looks so similar to tulip poplar that it appears to have been misidentified and under-reported in modern furniture publications. The small side drawers at the top have wood spring locks to secure them. The locks can be released through holes in the dustboards accessible inside the locking drawers below. The center top drawer does not lock.


Sweeney, “Corbit-Sharp House,” 884, pl. XIV.

Norcini, “John Janvier, Sr.,” pl. I.

Waters, Plain and Ornamental, cat. 24.

Zimmerman, A Storied Past, 34, 81-82.