History & Art Connected > Nathanael Greene & American Decorative Arts

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jim and I attended a free lecture at the High Museum of Art, here in Atlanta yesterday, on connecting the dots to the discovery of original maker & original owner of an American piece of furniture, circa 1775 - a Desk and Bookcase.
Nathanael Greene's Desk and Bookcase, 1775
Thomas Spencer - Cabinet Maker
Donated to the High Museum in memory of Nancy Fraser Parker, by the Parker Family

This is a discovery 30 years in the making...  with pieces of the puzzle brought together by valued antique dealers & American Decorative Arts scholars.  Lecturer Patricia E. Kane, of Yale University Art Gallery, originally set out on a journey to reveal and publish more information on Newport, RI cabinet makers of the 18th century - at that time, Newport was considered the main hub of furniture making in America.  Kane's research and personal contacts in the fields of history & early American furniture, led her to the finding of a cabinet maker from Coventry, RI, (a town west of Newport) - Thomas Spencer.  It was believed, but not proven, that Spencer sold one of his pieces - a mahogany Desk and Bookcase - to Revolutionary War General, Nathanael Greene.  Also to be noted, Greene was a resident of Coventry.

Nathanael Greene / August 7, 1742 – June 19, 1786

Upon Greene's death, the Desk and Bookcase passed down through family lines.  The most fascinating piece to this puzzle took place in the early 1900's, when its then owner, hand wrote underneath one of the drawers, all ownership history up until that time period.  When the Desk and Bookcase came to be sold on the open market in the mid 1970's, an Atlanta American antique dealer purchased the piece.  That dealer's analysis of data found from the drawer's written ownership - including Nathanael Greene as original owner - gave light to the almost certainty of the lineage time line being correct, but historical research was still not available to 100% guarantee.  In 1975, the Parker Family, of Atlanta, acquired the Desk & Bookcase, where it remained until donated to the High Museum in 2008 in memory of Mrs. Nancy Fraser Parker.

Cut to the 21st century...  Patricia Kane's research reveals a found document of Nathanael Greene's - a register of his possessions prior to going off to war.  Listed, described, and dated is a Desk and Bookcase, purchased from Thomas Spencer.  Not only does this document become the final proof needed to confirm the validity of the Desk and Bookcase's maker & owner, but highlights the important significance of our American history and brings center stage, an American Decorative Arts artifact that has survived over 200 years and stills stands today.
The Nathanael Greene / Thomas Spencer Desk and Bookcase is part of the High Museum's permanent collection and is on view in their American Decorative Arts Wing.  For more info check out the High Museum's website...  www.high.org
THE ATTIC © 2016
Template by Blogs & Lattes