Federal Furniture
The American Federal Style encompasses the neoclassical designs promoted most notably by the Scottish architect Robert Adam and the English designers George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton. Adam pioneered the style during the 1760s, and both Hepplewhite and Sheraton published books of furniture designs, in 1788 and 1793 respectively. These men were influenced by the antiquities unearthed at the recently discovered cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy. The lightness and clean lines of the Federal Style were an antidote to Chippendale furniture, which had become increasingly massive and heavily carved.  Neoclassical furniture makers mainly used highly figured veneers and contrasting woods and inlays in simple geometric patterns for ornamentation. When carvings do appear, they are smaller scale and generally shallower in relief than in Chippendale pieces.  Mahogany remained the principal wood.  American craftsmen most often chose satinwood and flame birch for contrasting veneers.

As in previous periods, American taste lagged behind England by at least a decade.  Federal furniture doesn't come into its own until the mid 1790s.  To me, the finest work of this period comes from Boston, Salem, and the surrounding area.  Samuel McIntire, a carver, and John and Thomas Seymour, father and son cabinetmakers, are the most famous craftsmen from this region, producing some of their best work as early as 1795.  The Seymours excelled in elegant veneer work.  A decade later Duncan Phyfe, probably the best known of all American furniture makers, and Charles-Honoré Lannuier, a recent French émigré, both working in New York City, were reaching their peak.  Phyfe is best remembered for several forms he popularized, most notably the pedestal dining table and the lyre-back Grecian-style chair.

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