American Classical Carved and Figured Mahogany Card Table
When first published in 1938, this table served as a reminder that not all pieces in the Duncan Phyfe manner came from his workshop. In addition to his establishment of over one hundred workmen, there were other New York City cabinetmakers during the early years of the 19th century who had their own shops and worked in the distinctive style once considered the sole property of Phyle.1[According to Richmond Huntley, “Stephen and Moses Young also worked in Phyfe Manner,” American Collector 6, No. 12 (January, 1938), 5.] Were it not for the paper label found on this breakfast table, it, too, would have long since been attributed to Phyfe or his “school.” To Charles F. Montgomery, however, “perhaps no furniture is so typical of New York cabinetmaking in the second decade of the 19th century as the pedestal form of tables with long, concaved legs and urn shaft made by Duncan Phyfe and his contemporaries.”2Montgomery 1966, 332.
In fact, many similar tables have been located, and one bearing the paper label of Phyfe’s contemporary Michael Allison is virtually identical to this one.3The paper label on this table reads “M. ALLISON’S/Cabinet Warehouse/42 AND 44 VESEY STREET/NEW-YORK.” Made between 1808 and 1815, this table was originally owned by the Crocheron family of Staten Island, and was later sold by Bernard and S. Dean Levy, Inc., New York (illustrated in DAPC). A third nearly identical table is illustrated in Charles O. Cornelius’s Masterpieces of Duncan Phyfe and attributed to that maker, but with no documentation.4Cornelius, pl. xxix.
The Collection’s table is the only known object made by the Young brothers. According to city directories, the Youngs began their partnership in 1804 at 73 Broad Street, in the heart of the New York City cabinetmaking district. Their shop was located at the address on this label, 79 Broad Street, from 1810 to 1818. After twenty years in business together, Moses Young retired from cabinetmaking. He pursued the mahogany trade for two more years, while his brother continued as a cabinetmaker until 1835.
Tables of this form served a variety of functions: as card and occasional tables as well as breakfast tables. In an age before dining rooms and dining tables became common, such smaller tables were kept in parlors or hallways to be pulled out when needed.
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.