Winter Tea Party winners: Angela's book,THE SCARLET COAT, will go to: Print copy- Andrea Stephens; e-book copy - Catherine Wight!

LUCY REYNOLDS has a table topper quilt on the way, and winners of the Valentine Ebook Collection are: Deanna Stevens, Caryl Kane, Anne Payne and Winnie Thomas. With thanks to all who joined in!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

An 18th Century Tea Table by Cynthia Howerter

During the 18th century, affluent American colonists continued the British custom of having a sumptuous tea in the afternoon.  Thus, the use of tea tables became a popular means of presentation for this repast.   Because tea, tea tables, and a fancy tea service were expensive, it was a sign of one's prestige to own such items.          

The first time I visited Keck Jackson’s Eighteenth Century Shop in Allison Park, Pennsylvania, I felt like I’d walked into the American Colonial period.  Not only was the shop’s extraordinary furniture, all handmade by Mr. Jackson, a feast for my eyes, but the beeswax polish that Mr. Jackson uses on each piece produces an exquisite scent.
Entering one of the shop’s rooms, I spotted a gorgeous tea table.  Mr. Jackson noticed me lingering in front of the table – actually, I was drooling – and handed me a photograph of the original table that served as the “pattern” for the reproduction.  As I compared the photo of the original with the piece that Mr. Jackson had painstakingly made by hand, he told me the history.

The original tea table had been made in the last quarter of the 1700s for a wealthy client in the Philadelphia area.  Although furniture made from mahogany was much sought after in the American Colonies at that time, the original tea table was made from walnut because that wood was more available.  Additionally, because the grains of walnut and mahogany are so similar, colonists were happy to purchase pieces made from walnut.

The reproduction tea table contains a rare piece of walnut - the table top is a single 17-inch wide board.  Because it's difficult to find walnut boards of that width, the original table top was composed of two boards. 

This particular table top is called a "tray top" because of the raised molding that frames the table's surface the same way a frame surrounds a picture.


In the photo below as well as in the article's first photograph, note that the table’s skirt contains handsome scallops while cabriole legs with pad feet support the table.  The photo below also provides a side view of the raised molding that frames the table's top.


 Mr. Jackson explained that in Colonial times, the tea table was a serving piece upon which a fine tea service would be placed along with whatever foods were being served.  When not in use, tea tables were placed on the side of a room or in a hall until it was time to serve tea.  At the appropriate time in the afternoon, the tea table was moved to a prominent part of a room. 

Tea tables were found in the homes of the affluent and used in more formal settings.  Less affluent colonists would not have been able to purchase such finely crafted tables. 

Mr. Jackson has been crafting authentic copies of 18th century furniture since 1980.  Each piece is handmade using a full assortment of furniture making tools from the 1700s, including 80 antique molding planes.  Mr. Jackson uses the same materials in his reproduction furniture that were used in the originals.  Each piece of his furniture is historically accurate and requires many hours of work before it’s completed, but as you can see from the photographs, the wait is well worth it.




All photographs ©2014 Cynthia Howerter

Award-winning author Cynthia Howerter loves using her training in education, research, writing, and speaking to teach and inspire others about a time in America that was anything but boring. A member of the Daughters of the American revolution (DAR), Cynthia believes history should be alive and personal.

Visit Cynthia's website: Cynthia Howerter - all things historical 







 









12 comments:

  1. Very lovely piece, I love drinking tea myself in the evenings.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, J. Grace! I'm glad you enjoyed the article - and glad to hear that you enjoy tea. I do, too.

      Delete
  2. This was very interesting Cynthia. I love furniture that is all hand made.And i love the mahogany color. I love the history stuff on here. Maxie Anderson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Maxie Anderson! There's nothing like handmade furniture. I know you would thoroughly enjoy visiting Mr. Jackson's cabinet shop.

      Delete
  3. You wicked girl. You made me go to his website and look at all that beautiful furniture. I'm still drooling. Unfortunately I live half a continent away and already have a house full of things.

    Thank you for giving us this glimpse into the eighteenth century,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are too funny, Judith Robl! Too bad you can't smell the beeswax polish that Mr. Jackson uses - the fragrance is to die for. I wish he could bottle and sell it. So glad you enjoyed this article!

      Delete
  4. I just love the tea table and reasons behind it's use! I would love one of those in my house - after the kids are gone, of course. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the article, Susan! Even without a tea table, it's fun to get out a tea pot and cups and enjoy a relaxing tea break.

      Delete
  5. Love your post, Cynthia and I love that table! I have a little tea table (I didn't know until now that is what it is!) and sadly it's in a storage unit we have. It's been in the family for years and years and needs refinishing badly, and I was thinking I didn't have any place to put it. But I'm thinking I'd like to use it just like in days gone by: I'll keep it set aside, and then for tea make it grand with the little table!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh, Rebecca, I hope your tea table gets a lot of use! I'd love to see a photo of it. Glad you enjoyed the article. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Cynthia, I liked your article so much and actually love tea anything. Long ago we switched from coffee to green tea. Tea parties? Yes, Amen. On March 10 I've invited the board of our South Carolina Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers to meet at our house "for tea" along with our quarterly board meeting. I'm making the scones! Not having a tea table, we'll have to go with my oak dining table,however. Ha How far away do you live, Cynthia? Maybe we can get together for tea sometime??
    Elva Cobb Martin, President, ACFW-SC.Anderson, SC

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm so glad you love tea as much as I do, Elva! Your upcoming tea party sounds WONDERFUL!! And I think your dining table will be just lovely for the tea.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for commenting, please check back for our replies!