John Shaw Side Chair, Annapolis MD, circa 1790-1800


Side Chair

John Shaw (1745-1829), Annapolis, Maryland

1790 – 1800


19” deep x 21” wide x 37” tall

This chair is virtually identical to Catalogue No. 28 dated 1793 in John Shaw Cabinetmaker of Annapolis.


John Shaw was the foremost cabinetmaker working in Annapolis during the latter part of the eighteenth century and his career continued well into the nineteenth.  He is thought to have arrived in Maryland from his native Glasgow, where he presumably apprenticed, in the early 1770s and soon established his shop in Annapolis. The colonial capital and a thriving port city would have been a logical choice for a young cabinetmaker and proved a fortuitous one for Shaw.  He would remain there for his entire life, producing a large body of work, training multiple skilled apprentices and earning the esteem of his compatriots.

When he died in 1829, at the age of 84, the Maryland Gazette described him as “not only one of the oldest and [most] respectable inhabitants of this city . . . but also] one of the most useful of them. He was gifted by nature with strength, as well as fortitude of mind, and possessed a degree of self-control which [he] rarely permitted . . . to be disturbed. Thus happily constituted, he pursued his way-content. His whole conduct remained free from reproach and he descended into the grave in peace with the human family.[having lived] a life characterized by industry, temperance, strict integrity…”

This chair has an arched crest rail above a pierced “tulip” splat with a quatrefoil design.  The upholstered seat has a serpentine front rail.  The square front legs are slightly tapered with slight chamfering on the interior corner.  The rear legs are also square, have similar chamfering and flair slightly.  The H form stretcher is dovetailed to the sides while a slightly higher stretcher joins the rear legs. Large, old triangular blocks reinforce the corners. The chair survives in excellent condition with traces of early upholstery fabrics remaining beneath the modern show cover.

Tulip splat design


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