- Copyright Page
- List of Contributors
- Words or Things in American History?
- Artifacts and Their Functions
- Mastery, Artifice, and the Natural Order: A Jewel from the Early Modern Pearl Industry
- Food and Cognition: Henry Norwood’s A Voyage to Virginia
- On Pins and Needles: Straight Pins, Safety Pins, and Spectacularity
- Mind, Time, and Material Engagement
- Material Time
- Remaking the Kitchen, 1800–1850
- Boston Electric: Science by “Mail Order” and Bricolage at Colonial Harvard
- Making Knowledge Claims in the Eighteenth-Century British Museum
- The Ever-Changing Technology and Significance of Silk on the Silk Road
- Science, Play, and the Material Culture of Twentieth-Century American Boyhood
- The Sensory Web of Vision: Enchantment and Agency in Religious Material Culture
- Sensiotics, or the Study of the Senses in Material Culture and History in Africa and Beyond
- The Numinous Body and the Symbolism of Human Remains
- Symbolic Things and Social Performance: Christmas Nativity Scenes in Late Nineteenth-Century Santiago de Chile
- Heritage Religion and the Mormons
- From Confiscation to Collection: The Objects of China’s Cultural Revolution
- Persons and Things in Marseille and Lucca, 1300–1450
- Cloth and the Rituals of Encounter in La Florida: Weaving and Unraveling the Code
- Street “Luxuries”: Food Hawking in Early Modern Rome
- Ebony and Ivory: Pianos, People, Property, and Freedom on the Plantation, 1861–1870
- The Material Culture of Furniture Production in the British Colonies
- Material Culture, Museums, and the Creation of Multiple Meanings
- Chronology and Time: Northern European Coastal Settlements and Societies, c. 500–1050
- Materialities in the Making of World Histories: South Asia and the South Pacific
- Mapping History in Clay and Skin: Strategies for Remembrance among Ga’ anda of Northeastern Nigeria
- Remember Me: Sensibility and the Sacred in Early Mormonism
- Housing History: The Colonial Revival as Consumer Culture
- Collecting as Historical Practice and the Conundrum of the Unmoored Object
Abstract and Keywords
Artifacts have long been markers of wealth, status, self-identity, or taste. As a result, most studies of social distinction in British and American material culture have tended to focus upon the consumption/possession perspective. To explore the production side of material culture distinction, this chapter focuses upon furniture history, examining the structures of furniture making in colonial British society. Comparative exploration of America in the eighteenth century, India in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and Australia in the early nineteenth century provides a sense of how the social structure of production operated, how it affected the look of the objects, and how it has continued to influence contemporary understanding of these objects. During the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the backgrounds of cabinetmakers had a direct impact on the possibilities of their work and prospects. These period distinctions have subsequently fostered a different sort of distinction today wherein the skills and legacy of nonwhite and convict cabinetmakers, the artisanal “other” in the British Empire, continue to be undervalued or ignored. Beautiful collected objects often distract us from the analysis of the systems of their production or an ethical critique of those systems.
Edward S. Cooke Jr. is Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts, Professor of American Studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of American Decorative Arts and Material Culture at Yale University.
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