Surviving in pristine condition, this high chest is a powerful expression of Pennsylvania's Queen Anne aesthetic. The vibrant grain of the figured-maple drawer fronts and the bold shaping of the mid-molding and skirt point to the accomplished craftsmanship practiced by cabinetmakers working in eighteenth-century Philadelphia and its surrounds. Displaying a similar mid-molding, the same drawer layout in the lower case, identical skirts with distinctive central pendant shaping and robust cabriole legs with tall "Spanish" feet, a spice box on stand now in the Chester County Historical Society was most likely made in the same shop. The spice box has been attributed to Chester County or Philadelphia, circa 1735-1745, the basis for the attribution of this high chest (Jack L. Lindsey, Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania 1680-1758 (Philadelphia, 1999), p. 140, no. 9).
Part of the furnishings of the Thomas Robinson house in Newport, the high chest descended to Henry A. Wood, Jr. (1903-1982) and in all likelihood was made for one of the illustrious ancestors of his mother, Anna Wharton (Smith) Wood (1864-1945). These ancestors included members of the Morton, Smith, Wharton and Fisher families, all prominent members of the Quaker faith. As indicated by the stenciled inscription on the lower case, the high chest was shipped by steamship to Newport via Providence by Anna's father Benjamin Raper Smith (1825-1904). Smith lived in Germantown, Pennsylvania and inherited the Thomas Robinson house, which he used as a summer home. An 1884 picture of Smith and his family sitting and standing on the back porch reveals that this house was the site of large family gatherings (fig. 1) (John Russell Bartlett, History of the Wanton Family of Newport (Providence, 1878), pp. 146-147). For other examples of Philadelphia furniture owned by this family, see Christie's, New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Eddy Nicholson, 27-28 January 1995, lot 1084; Christie's, New York, 15-16 January 1999, lot 715; Christie's, New York, 20-21 January 2005, lot 551). For other furniture from the Thomas Robinson house, see the preceding two lots.