Object of the Week: Chippendale Style Bed

All of the objects in the Porter-Phelps-Huntington museum were brought into the house by the six generations of family members who lived here. These objects continued to play a part in the daily lives of the family  even as the generations moved in and out of the home. This is one of their stories.

This bed (c.1740-50), made in the Chippendale style from mahogany and maple woods, became fashionable during Moses and Elizabeth’s first years living in their newly completed home. The Chippendale aesthetic is modeled after a mixture of primarily Gothic, Asian, and French Rococo influences. The mahogany claw-and-ball feet with fluted posts appear only on the footboard of the bed. The headboard, made from maple, is contrastingly simple in design. The bed would have been dressed in heavy draperies covering the headboard, making it unnecessary to reproduce the intricacies of the more visible footboard. The Museum has no original bed curtains from the 18th century, and a summer-time “tester” (a lighter lace canopy) was removed for preservation purposes. The frame is now bare, but it shows the markings of the hangings that had adorned it in the past.  Though the craftsman of the bed is not known, it was likely constructed by a furniture maker in Boston and brought into the home in 1752 upon its completion by Moses Porter.

Moses, however, spent only three years sleeping in this bed, as his life was tragically cut short on September 8th, 1755 while serving as a Captain in the Seven Years War. This left Elizabeth widowed at age 35. At this time, the bed would have been located in the master bedchamber downstairs. But in 1770, Moses and Elizabeth’s only child, Betsy, married Charles Phelps Jr. Now as Mistress and Master of the home, the newlyweds took the downstairs bedchamber and  the Chippendale bed was moved upstairs for Elizabeth. Elizabeth never remarried and lived out the remainder of her life in the home Moses built for her until her death in 1798.


For more information on the Chippendale style and other furniture in the colonies, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Timeline of Art History: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chip/hd_chip.htm

And for more on Moses and Elizabeth and the other features of the home, visit the collections pages on the PPH website: http://www.pphmuseum.org/collections/