The Personal Touch

 

In early America, craftsmen usually interacted directly with their customers, who in turn knew the person they were buying from. Craftsmen advertised locally and recorded their own sales. Their business records, such as account books and invoices, not only list purchases and prices but also shed light on social networks, buying practices, and barter economies.

The use of trade cards and labels, an early form of advertising, originated in England in the 1600s and then spread to the colonies. Cards and labels were distributed to people on the street, given out with items sold, glued onto furniture, and sometimes used as bills and receipts. The illustrations alone tell us much about the period in which they were created.

65x708 - Winterthur Library Revealed

Benjamin Harbeson trade label
Engraved by H. Dawkins
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1776
Copperplate engraving and iron gall ink
65×708 Downs Collection, gift of Henry Francis du Pont

67x93 - Winterthur Library Revealed64x53 - Winterthur Library Revealed

Kneeland & Adams trade label
Printed by Elisha Babcock
Hartford, Connecticut; 1793
Copperplate engraving
67×93 Downs Collection, gift of the Friends of Winterthur

Peter Durand Jr. trade card
Engraved by C. E. Egelman
Reading, Pennsylvania; about 1815
Watercolor and engraving
64×53 Downs Collection, gift of the Friends of Winterthur

71x249 - Winterthur Library Revealed

1967.0277 - Winterthur Library RevealedRaphaelle and Rembrandt Peale trade label
Engraved by E. Trenchard
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1793–96
Watercolor and engraving
71×249 Downs Collection, gift of the Friends of Winterthur

Eleuthera du Pont Smith
Painted by Rembrandt Peale
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1830–31
Oil on canvas
1967.0277 Gift of John Irving Woodriff

In the early stages of their professional careers, American painters Raphaelle and Rembrandt Peale advertised with the hand-painted trade label seen here. By 1831, when Rembrandt painted Eleuthera du Pont (sister of Evelina du Pont Bidermann, the first owner of Winterthur), he had enjoyed a long and successful career.

89x35.2a - Winterthur Library Revealed1962.0240.1580.001 - Winterthur Library RevealedSamuel Williamson ledger
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1810–13
Iron gall ink
89×35.2a Downs Collection, gift of the Friends of Winterthur

Tablespoon
Made by Samuel Williamson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1794–1813
Silver
1962.0240.1580.001 Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Alfred Bissell

1978.0158- Winterthur Library RevealedWaste bowl
Made by Samuel Williamson
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 1800–1813
Silver
1978.0158 Gift of an anonymous donor

Between 1794 and 1813 in Philadelphia, Samuel Williamson crafted silver objects such as this waste bowl and tablespoon. In his ledger, he recorded information about making, mending, and selling his silverwork, training craftsmen, and importing plated silver from England.

1957.0716.002, 1964.0024.001 - Winterthur Library Revealed

56.6.4 - Winterthur Library RevealedSide chair
Attributed to Duncan Phyfe
New York, New York; 1810–20
Mahogany
1957.0716.002 Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont

Side chair
Attributed to Duncan Phyfe
New York, New York; 1810–15
56x6.3 - Winterthur Library RevealedMahogany, white pine, maple, beech, silk upholstery
1964.0024.001 Museum purchase with funds provided by the Charles K. Davis Fund

Drawing of chairs
Attributed to Duncan Phyfe
New York, New York; 1815–16
Iron gall ink and graphite
56×6.4 Downs Collection, gift of the Friends of Winterthur

Invoice for furniture
From Duncan Phyfe to Charles N. Bancker
New York, New York; 1816
Iron gall ink
NK2406 N53a - Winterthur Library Revealed56×6.3 Downs Collection, gift of the Friends of Winterthur

The New-York Revised Prices for Manufacturing Cabinet and Chair Work (inside front cover and title page shown)
Printed by Southwick and Pelsue
New York, New York; 1810
NK2406 N53a Printed Book and Periodical Collection, gift of Henry Francis du Pont

Lyre-back chairs were fashionable in the early 1800s, while chairs with Grecian cross legs were rare. The two chairs seen here are attributed to Duncan Phyfe. They display exquisite and innovative craftsmanship that could only have come from such an experienced furnituremaker. In addition, Phyfe sent an invoice for furniture as well as a drawing of similar chairs to a Philadelphia client, providing further evidence that he made the pieces seen here. He most likely priced the chair seats using his personal copy of a New York pricebook for cabinetmakers.

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