Boston Furniture at Winterthur
BOSTON. The name brings to mind Beacon Hill, baked beans, and the Red Sox—but perhaps not antique furniture. Yet during its early history, Boston attracted many of the finest woodworking craftsmen in America. Perched on a strip of land jutting into Massachusetts Bay, the flourishing seaport depended on artisans to build ships, homes, and furniture. Today, aside from Old Ironsides, all the vessels are gone, and most of the colonial architecture has been replaced. The furniture, however, has survived in quantity and over the past century has been passionately pursued by collectors.
In the 1920s, Henry Francis du Pont began a journey in collecting that rewarded him with many treasures, including a magnificent array of Boston furniture. Today Winterthur has more than 300 Boston pieces, ranging in date from the 1650s to the 1830s. Fifty of the finest of these were featured in a special exhibition that accompanied the 2013 Winterthur Furniture Forum, New Perspectives on Boston Furniture, 1630-1860.
The exhibition and conference inaugurated a two-year project, Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture. The endeavor united eleven institutions in an unprecedented partnership which celebrated furniture-making in the Bay State. For more information about the exhibitions, publications, and programs associated with this project, see www.fourcenturies.org.