Virginia’s history of furniture production, particularly during the colonial period, is indeed rich and fascinating. The state had a vibrant furniture industry, more so than initially realized by historians. In colonial Virginia, there were at least six furniture makers, with Anthony Hay being one of the most prominent. He was active in Colonial Williamsburg, and as the colony grew, other furniture makers emerged in cities like Norfolk, Fredericksburg, Alexandria, and Petersburg.

In Fredericksburg, more than a dozen manufacturers produced European-style furniture. Notable cabinetmakers in this area included Robert and Alexander Walker, James Allen, and Thomas Miller. These early cabinetmakers often worked at house joinery, creating a connection between the rooms and the furniture they made.

Virginia’s furniture industry was characterized by various styles, including Chippendale, Queen Anne, and vernacular styles. The state’s craftsmen and their styles traveled with citizens as they emigrated westward. Interestingly, not all styles mimicked the British; some, like German emigrant Johannes Spitler, brought native painting and folk decorative styles to areas like the Shenandoah Valley.

One of the early 19th-century companies that survived is E.A. Clore, founded in 1830. This company is now one of the oldest in the United States and continues to make furniture in its Madison County location. In smaller towns like Waterford, Virginia, there were also several manufacturers, such as John Mount, William T. Mount, and Lewis N. Hough.

Anthony Hay, after whom the Hay Shop in Colonial Williamsburg is named, was an influential figure in Virginia’s furniture history. He passed on his business to Benjamin Bucktrout and Edmund Dickinson, who continued the tradition of fine furniture making. Dickinson, in particular, provided furniture to many prominent individuals in Williamsburg and even became an officer in America’s new army during the Revolutionary War.

For more detailed information on Virginia’s rich furniture history, you can explore:

a. Colonial Williamsburg: This living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia, has an extensive collection of 18th-century furniture, including pieces made by Virginia craftsmen.

b. Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA): Located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, MESDA houses a significant collection of Southern decorative arts, including furniture from Virginia.

c. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA): VMFA in Richmond, Virginia, has a diverse collection of decorative arts, including 18th-century furniture pieces.

d. Stratford Hall: The historic home of the Lee family in Virginia features a collection of period furniture and offers insights into the lifestyle of the 18th-century Virginia gentry.

In addition, sources from Wikipedia, The Chipstone Foundation, and the Furniture Collection Blog.


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