'Revolutionary' Furniture in Early America
It is no surprise trends and styles of furniture follow the behaviors and attitudes of the people who make and use it. Early America was no exception.
With the birth of the Colonies, most furniture followed the prevailing fashions of England but was, in general, a few years behind and a bit more primitive in design and decoration. Skilled furniture makers were difficult to come by and, afterall, the focus was on surviving and building a society rather than home goods. Many of the earliest surviving pieces from the time period were chests and cupboards, items with a much different utilitarian value than tables or chairs and testaments to the importance of mobility and storage.
Around the time of the Revolution, people were able to enjoy more leisure time and items like card tables and tea tables became more common. Each member of a household could have a chair, rather than just the most important member. Due to British occupation of many American ports and the Revolutionary War itself, it became much more difficult to import woods from the Caribbean and overseas. Native woods like black walnut, pine and cherry were much more likely to be utilized and America started to look like the 'melting pot' that it came to be known as. French, Dutch, Scottish, and Irish influence abounded and more focus could be placed on the decorative value of furniture.
After the War, Americans began to favor what became known as the Federal Style, which much like the new country's democratic ideals, were inspired by early Greece and Rome. During this time, furniture began to display regional differences between Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and other growing cities. In spite of this, it became one of the first ways for the newly independent Americans to present a unified identity. Much like today, early Americans strove to be a beacon of democracy for the world and proudly displayed their newfound freedom and independent spirit.