Walnut Center or Tea Table
Eastern North Carolina – Warren County
Boldly Shaped Skirt & Slightly Splayed Legs
With a Choice, Mellow, Old Surface
Descended in the Drake Family
Commentary: This walnut center table belongs in a group of related tables with histories centered in the Chowan County area of northeastern North Carolina. (2014 Microanalysis by Alden Identification Service) The group, which is discussed extensively by John Bivins in his The Furniture of Coastal North Carolina, dates to the last third of the eighteenth century and the first few years of the nineteenth. Stylistically, they reflect the overwhelmingly British sensibilities of the region’s planter and merchant classes, but several tables such as ours, reveal the influence of artisans from New England (specifically Rhode Island) that brought their own aesthetic to the Carolina tidewater. In an article in American Furniture 1999 Bivins explored the northeastern linkage to two specific North Carolina cabinetmakers and scholarship continues in on this topic. The shaped skirts in particular seem to be associated with those found on Rhode Island tea tables suggesting a relationship at some level with this group from North Carolina which warrants further research.
The importance of this furniture group is again highlighted by Hurst and Prown in their discussion of northeastern North Carolina tables in Southern Furniture. (Cat 91) An example with a rectangular top and beaded, chamfered, Marlborough style legs (CWF 1933-7) that are quite similar to the Drake Family is illustrated, figure 91.2. Other related tables recorded by MESDA researchers include: S-3002, S-1243, NN-997, & MRF-4622.
These small tables served a variety of uses but the size, form and finish of this table on all four sides suggest that its primary function was a center or tea table, intended to be placed in front of a sofa or small grouping of chairs, rather than be set against a wall. Some others in the group are finished on only three sides and likely served primarily as writing tables. While the shaping of the legs and feet vary widely, all feature some variation of shaping of the skirts that render them quite distinctive. The beaded and chamfered legs of our example suggest a date in the mid-range for the group. As noted in MESDA research file S-1243 in a discussion of a similar table in the group described as 1730 – 1770, “stands of this style are difficult to date; they follow popular New England convention and reveal the influence of the North at an early date.” In addition to the similarities in form, most of the tables in the group have skirts constructed of unusually thick stock.
The table has a long history of ownership in the Drake Family of Virginia and North Carolina. According to family history, the first owner was Edmund Drake (~1735-1803), son of Richard and Margaret Drake of Isle of Wight, VA. Edmund married Mary Mann in Edgecombe County, NC in 1763. He served in the Revolutionary War, and by the 1790 census, the family was living in the Halifax District of Nash County, NC with a large household of 13 whites and 13 slaves. The date of the table suggests the family was still living in Edgecombe County at the time of its manufacture. The table then passed on to Edmund and Mary’s youngest son, Caswell Drake (1776-1851).
The table survives in outstanding condition with its original surface largely intact. It is essentially untouched by the usual campaigns of restoration by well the well intentioned. The top was likely originally attached to the frame by four small screws and a combination of corner glue blocks. The top was subsequently secured by eight carefully placed nails. The splayed legs are lightly chamfered on the inner edge with a molded bead on the outer edge. They are mortised, tenoned and pegged to the shaped frame or skirt at each junction.
Published: The Furniture of Coastal North Carolina, Figure 6.145, Page 360-361, MRF – 4447
Line of descent as known at present:
1. Edmund Drake- born ~1735- died 1803 in Nash County fathered a son who was
2. Rev Caswell Drake born 1776/died 1851 in Warren Co. who fathered a son who was
3. Mathew Mann Drake born 1798/died 1865 married Winifred Fitts- they had a son who was
4. Maj William Caswell Drake born 1832 who’s second wife was Olivea Duke Fitts and together they had a son who was
5. Francis Marvin Drake who married Ida Rodwell and had a son who was
6. William Caswell Drake who married Mildred Michauxts) who had a daughter who was
7. Marcia Drake – mother of present owner.
Send me an email about this item.