Fancifully carved and expertly constructed, this high chest-of-drawers displays many of the characteristics of Salem cabinetmaking in the mid- to late eighteenth century. Hallmarks of Salem design present here include the design of the finials, particularly the bell-shaped bases and ball-and-spire central finial,m and distinctive skirt profile. bell with a center finial comprising a ball impaled on a spire and an Salem construction techniques evident include the enclosed bonnet, exposed dovetails on the drawer blades and drawer bottoms with the grain running parallel to the drawer fronts (Kemble Widmer II and Judy Anderson, "Furniture from Marblehead Massachusetts," The Magazine Antiques (May 2003), pp. 96-105). For a high chest-of-drawers with similar apron, see Albert Sack, The New Fine Points of Furniture (New York, 1993), p. 198.
Photographed in situ in the Pickering house in Samuel Chamberlain's 1950 Salem Interiors, this high chest has a history in the Cox-Pickering family of Salem. If first owned by the Cox family, the high chest may have been made for Benjamin Cox and Elizabeth Very (b. 1747), who married in Salem in 1768, and brought to the Pickering house by their granddaughter, Mehitable Sarah Cox (1815-1879). She married John A. Pickering (1808-1882), who inherited the Pickering house, built by his ancestor Lieutenant John Pickering (1637-1694) in 1651. Subsequently, it probably descended along with the house in successive generations of the Pickering family until its sale in 1994. Each inscribed FRANCIS COX ACTIVE. 1806, the bucket and bag were probably brought to the Pickering house at the same time, although the relationship between Francis and Mehitable has not been determined. These items date from the formation of the Active Fire Club on February 20, 1806 and Francis Cox is listed as one of the club's Moderators. See William D. Dennis, "Fire Clubs of Salem," Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, vol. XXXIX, no. 1 (January 1903).