With a Fine Old Surface
Augusta or Berkeley County, Virginia
Possibly the shop of George Reamer
42” wide, 21 ½” deep, 42” tall 45 ½”
Commentary: This desk is a fine example of Valley craftsmanship at the beginning of the 19th century and survives in excellent condition with a rich early surface and color. The French style feet connected by a distinctively formed skirt indicate the cabinetmaker’s knowledge of contemporary styling while the rather austere “neat and plain” aesthetic permeates the overall design. The central prospect compartment slides forward to reveal two “hidden” drawers concealed in the rear and the high level of craftsmanship throughout the case and drawers evidence the skill of the cabinetmaker.
Two Virginia desks, one with a history in Augusta County and the other with a history in Berkeley County, can be attributed to the same shop as this example based on a host of similarities of style, proportion and construction. Hurst and Prown first identified the connection between the Augusta and Berkeley desks in Southern Furniture but were unable to trace their common origins. The appearance of this third desk, while precipitating a reexamination of the information gathered in Southern Furniture, has unfortunately brought us no closer to identifying the artisan or location of his shop, although the close relationship between the three desks is unmistakable. Common features include: double mortise and tenoning of the fall board, virtually identical interior layouts, shaped front and side skirts, and multiple case and drawer construction details.
No cabinetmaker named George Reamer, identified in the MESDA research files on the Berkeley desk as the cabinetmaker, has been located or any individual in the area during the period who evidence a link between the desks or owners. Similarly, the Coiner Family connection to the Augusta desk has been reexamined but revealed no new evidence linking the desk or families. The distance between Berkeley County and Augusta County is not great and both lie within the broad channel of emigration running to the southwest down the Valley of Virginia from the central Atlantic to western North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Consequently, the cabinetmaker or desk’s owners might well have moved down the Valley.