CHEST OF DRAWERS, AUGUSTA COUNTY, VIRGINIA
Attributed to Joseph Ray (d.1799)/John Price (1785-1790)
40″ wide (at foot/base) x 42″ tall x 22″ deep (at foot/base)
This rare three over four chest of drawers is attributed to Staunton, Virginia based on regional construction characteristics. The unusual top and base molding profiles are identical to others from the area. The tops of the drawer sides are somewhat rounded; there are deep saw kerfs on inside of the drawer fronts; there are fully framed drawer supports and the base is attached with nails set into countersunk holes. The combination all of these particular traits on the chest identify it as a chest made in the late 18th century in Augusta County, Virginia, and very likely Staunton.
Traditionally this group has been attributed to the circle of Gideon Morgan (1751-1830) a contractor who supplied joinery, painting and construction for the home of Archibald Stuart in Staunton, built in 1791. Current research from MESDA reveals that, by the time Gideon Morgan arrived in Staunton in 1790, there was already a thriving cabinetmaking community making case pieces for the area. The patriarch was Joseph Ray (d.1799), born in Ireland, whose family immigrated to Philadelphia and arrived in Augusta County in 1740 as a young boy. After service in the French and Indian War, he returned to Staunton in 1767 and set up a cabinet shop taking on John Price ((1726-1797) as an indentured servant. By 1780, Price has his own shop and in the early 1790’s both Ray and Price were billing Archibald Stuart for furniture and repairs.
While Gideon Morgan was certainly involved in cabinetmaking, his bills to the Stuart house were for architectural work, supplies and painting. Morgan held insurance on a large joiners’ shop, a log house and wooden kitchen under the name of Morgan & Pippet with Joseph Pippet between 1801-1805. Morgan was also operating a tavern and a saw mill during this time.
This chest was purchased from The Dell, a large farm in Port Republic, just 20 miles away in Rockingham County.
 In 1793 John Price apprenticed James Wilson, to whom he left a substantial amount of woodworking tools when he died four years later. Wilson, then 17 years old was taken on by Luther Morgan, the son of Gideon to finish his apprenticeship two months later.