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Sugar Chest, ca. 1800-1825

Artist: Unknown Maker, American (Tennessee or Kentucky)

Medium: Cherry, tulip poplar

39 3/4 × 25 1/4 × 19 1/4 in. (101 × 64.1 × 48.9 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Decorative Arts Trust, funds provided by Mrs. James Robinson

Object Number: 85.8

Not on view

A southern Planter is reported to have boasted that he raised "everything he ate except sugar and coffee." Because these commodities were not raised in the south and thus had to be imported, they were expensive and were stored carefully under lock and key, as tea had been in 18th-century England. The majority of surviving chests made for the storage of sugar have been found in Tennessee and Kentucky, where the distance from seaports and scarcity of highways mad sugar especially costly.  This chest, with lifting lid revealing a large storage compartment for sugar, is an especially fine and sophisticated example of a traditional type. The finely dovetailed case demonstrates a high level of craftsmanship, while the tapering legs and inlaid keyhole area reflect the influence of the Hepplewhite style fashionable in the late 18th- and early 19th-century England and American urban work. The use of cherry wood is characteristic of this region.