Tall, sturdy and more than 200 years old, the chest of drawers did not have to travel far to become a treatment project for Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (WUDPAC) Fellow and furniture major Caitlin Sofield. Indeed, it has only ever stood in one other location, a Pennsylvania farmhouse about 30 miles from the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library. The museum received the chest in 2011 from descendants of Jacob Brown, a Quaker cabinetmaker thought to have made it in the late 18th century.
The chest is made of black walnut, tulip poplar, hickory and ash, likely cut from trees that grew in a southeastern Pennsylvania forest, and has many design elements unique to that region. These include its relatively tall Octoraro-style legs, the proportionally small, round pulls on its eight drawers, and the way in which the sides extend to the floor behind its feet. The chest also has many nicks and losses that help tell the story of its use over the past two centuries, and Caite’s goal was to preserve as many of them as possible.