In late December of 2020, the museum was delighted to welcome an Annapolis sofa in the permanent collection of the Hammond-Harwood House.
Although the collection already has a few attractive sofas, this is the only one with direct Annapolis provenance. Our donor, Robert Shannahan, a former trustee, purchased the sofa at auction in the early 21st century. Previously the item had been owned by the Love family of Ruxton, Maryland. Mrs. Ellen Love, a collector of Americana, bought the piece from the Chase House in Annapolis during the Great Depression, sometime in the early 1930’s most likely. The circumstances of the sale are unknown at this time, but we hope to uncover more with Mrs. Love’s diary, which is still in the family, and being located.
The sofa is shown at the Chase Home in the February 1927 issue of National Geographic, in a story entitled A Maryland Pilgrimage by Gilbert Grovesnor, who was President of the National Geographic Society.
The sofa dates to about 1770 and was likely intended for a parlor in an Annapolis townhouse. There was a building boom of 14 such houses between 1764 and 1774. This new construction necessitated skilled European craftsmen, followed by the need for appropriate furnishings. The years 1763 to 1774 are known as the Golden Age of Annapolis. Political power acted as a magnet for the wealthy planters who came to town, bringing a profound desire for sophisticated society and stylish architecture, as well as a ravenous appetite for imported luxury goods. Men like Edward Lloyd IV, who finished the Chase-Lloyd House, and Matthias Hammond, who commissioned the Hammond-Harwood House, were eager to display their wealth and employed British-born architect William Buckland to work on their lavish town homes.
Historians Sasha Lourie and Gregory Weidman assert that while larger East Coast American cities in the 18th century established their own distinct style, Annapolis clung to British architecture, material culture, and social habits during the development of the city in its first three centuries. Despite the animosity of the Revolution, Americans shared a tie of language and style with England. From the urban baroque design of the historic district to the grand homes of 18th century elite that emulated British gentry, connections to Britain can still be seen today, and this sofa is no exception. It was an Annapolis craftsman’s interpretation from a British pattern book.
Pattern books were essential for any craftsman in the American colonies. Topics covered in these books, mainly from England, ranged from architecture to cabinetmaking. English cabinetmakers Thomas Chippendale (1718-1779), George Hepplewhite (1727-1786), and Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) were known as the “big three.” Each developed pattern books that were widely circulated in England and the colonies. These influential books shaped furniture styles from the mid-18th century well into the early 19th century. In an effort to emulate English gentry, wealthy Annapolis citizens imported British furniture because it was not only in their minds fashionable but also supported the cross-Atlantic trade economy. They purchased British furniture at Annapolis stores or secured it through a London agent, as seen with the Carroll family.
Not all furniture was made abroad; there were at least three Annapolis cabinetmakers in the 1740’s and ‘50’s such as William Hayes, John Anderson, and Gamaliel Butler, and several cabinetmakers are listed in 1775 such as John Golder, Francis Hepburn, and William Whetcroft. Any of them could have been the maker of this sofa. The sofa contains woods native to America, so though it may be British in form, it was locally made. The British-imposed taxes in the Townsend Act of 1767 and Tea Act of 1773 spurred Annapolitans to boycott imported goods in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, and buying locally was popular.
Annapolis went into decline after the end of the war in 1783 due to optimistic overdevelopment and high taxes, paving the way for the rise of the larger port of Baltimore, which gained a competitive edge. After the Revolution, most cabinetmakers went to Baltimore and only two remained– Scottish born Archibald Chisholm and the most well-known Annapolis cabinetmaker, John Shaw ( See below Images Six and Seven). Shaw worked in the Chippendale and Sheraton styles. He had a diverse career and became caretaker of the Statehouse, purveyor of imported goods, and even keeper of the first town fire engine, made in Britain. It is possible that the sofa could have been made by Shaw and or Chisholm, as they operated a joint shop from 1772 to 1776, but it requires further investigation.
The sofa arrived in need of new upholstery and some minor conservation repairs to its frame. First step in the process is to have the upholstery removed and examined. This work is currently being done by Elisabeth Mallin (Image below), a museum professional who has worked at the upholstery shop at Colonial Williamsburg, and as a curator at the Maryland Center for History and Culture, and at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Once the removal is complete, Elisabeth will write a detailed report revealing what she found and making some recommendations for upholstery.
Next, the structural frame of the sofa requires some minor conservation repairs that will need to be addressed before upholstering. After that we will present the public with a series of potential fabric patterns that were appropriate to late 18th and early 19th century Annapolis, and the museum would love to hear your thoughts. Finally, an upholsterer will be sought for a non-intrusive approach—meaning the upholstery will not be tacked into the frame, a technique that prevents further damage. This technique is now quite common for museums.
The sofa is destined for the first floor Breakfast Room, currently interpreted for the Loockerman family living in the mansion in the early 19th century. Naturally, by this time period, a sofa such as this could have existed in their house. It is possible that by the early 19th century the sofa would have been on its second upholstery campaign to stay in fashion. It is especially appropriate for the sofa to be at the Hammond-Harwood House as the original owner may have been Samuel Chase, uncle of Frances Chase Loockerman, who lived in the house with her family.
Let’s dive into how that possibility was discovered. We know that the sofa was purchased by the Love family of Ruxton, Maryland, from the Chase Home in Annapolis around the time of the Great Depression. It is unclear why or how Chase Home acquired the sofa, but a history of Chase Home itself is worth mentioning, in relation to the sofa.
Fiery patriot, Samuel Chase, a future signer of the Declaration of Independence (Image Ten) started the house in 1769. The shell of the house was then sold to Edward Lloyd IV (Image Eleven), known to his friends as Edward The Magnificent for his wealth and style. Lloyd was also the owner of the country estate Wye House, still extant, in possession of Lloyd’s descendants. Lloyd employed skilled architect William Buckland to finish the interior details for his home. In 1796 Lloyd’s eldest son, Edward Lloyd V, inherited his father’s estates. This son became Governor of Maryland from 1809-1811, and during this time the Annapolis house was known as the Governor’s Mansion. Edward Lloyd V had six sisters; the youngest, Mary, married Francis Scott Key in the house in 1802.
Lloyd sold the house to his sister Elizabeth and her husband Henry Hall Harwood in 1826, and it was in the Harwoods’ possession until 1846. Harwood was a first cousin once removed (a generation apart) to William Harwood, who married the eldest Loockerman daughter and lived across the street at the Hammond-Harwood House. When the house was sold by the Harwoods presumably no Harwood or Lloyd furniture would have remained in the house.
The new owner in 1846 was Hester Ann Chase (1791-1875), niece of the original builder Samuel Chase. Hester was the youngest daughter of Judge Jeremiah Townley Chase and his wife Hester Baldwin Chase. Samuel Chase and Jeremiah were first cousins once removed (a generation apart), who had grown up like brothers after the early death of Jeremiah’s parents. The cousins had similar career paths as lawyers in Annapolis and even married sisters—Samuel married Ann Baldwin in 1762 and Jeremiah married Hester Baldwin in 1779.
Hester Ann Chase bought the house for a specific reason: unfortunately her estate, formerly her parents”, on King George Street, had just burned down. She was in need of a new residence and the Harwoods were ready to sell. At the time her eldest sister Frances Loockerman lived across the street in the Hammond-Harwood House. It is unlikely due to the fire that any furnishings were saved, especially large items such as a sofa. So this rules out the possibility of the sofa’s original owner being Judge Jeremiah Chase.
Hester Ann Chase was unmarried and raising her three nieces—Francis, Matilda, and Hester. They were the daughters of Hester’s late sister Matilda and brother in law Thomas Chase, son of Samuel Chase. This means that Matilda and Thomas were first cousins two generations apart through their fathers, and first cousins through their mothers. While unusual today it wasn’t that uncommon in the period.
When the three young girls grew up they ultimately inherited the house through their aunt. By 1885 Hester Anne Chase Ridout survived her unmarried sisters. In her 1886 she established an independent living facility for elderly women with a board of trustees to run the house. It was this organization that sold the sofa in the early 20th century.
The sofa certainly came into the house sometime in the second half of the 19th century or early 20th century after the Chase women moved in. A number of possibilities exist, such as: the sofa was purchased by a member of the family, inherited by a family member, or later donated to the home when it became a non-profit.
A thought that has now largely been ruled out is that it was original to the Hammond-Harwood House and sold at auction by the estate of Hester Ann Harwood, the last private owner in 1925. Inventory records no sofa such as this one, and the quick turnaround time with the sale to the Loves in the late 1920’s or early ‘30’s further makes the case that it probably didn’t come from the Harwood sale.
If the sofa was inherited into the Chase family, there is a strong possibility that it may have belonged to Samuel Chase originally, as it was his three granddaughters from his son Thomas, who lived in the house. Samuel Chase died in 1811, so it is possible his estate was divided and the sofa came into the possession of one of his children, and then was later given to the Chase’s niece and granddaughters to furnish the house in the late 1840’s. The sofa would not have come from Thomas’ mother, Ann Baldwin, wife of Samuel Chase, Ann, though blessed in beauty, was the daughter of a tavern owner from Bowie, Maryland, who brought little fortune or furniture to her marriage with Samuel Chase. She died around 1767, which predates the sofa.
The sofa could have been purchased by Samuel Chase around 1770, with the intent to furnish his new house, which he began in 1769. In 1770 he also purchased a silver hot water urn from England emblazoned with his maternal aunt’s noble coat of arms– with the likely intent for his new home. In 1771 Chase sold the house to Edward Lloyd IV after running out of funds. It would certainly have been an ironic twist of fate if this sofa was owned by Samuel Chase, and by pure coincidence it ended up in its intended residence after all when his niece bought the house later on and his granddaughters inherited the sofa.
More investigation will be done into possible original owners throughout the project. In the next sofa blog we will highlight Elisabeth Mallin’s work on the removal of the current upholstery, investigation on the wood, and construction details.
A Special Thank You to Lori and Frank Cicero for their love of the Hammond-Harwood House and their generous donation towards the project.
This is an exciting project and we hope you will also think about making a contribution towards preserving this Annapolis treasure for the future.
If interested please contact Curator/Assistant Director Rachel Lovett at 410-263-4683 x 12 or by email at Rachel@hammondharwoodhouse.org