Displaying meticulous craftsmanship and distinctive chalk inscriptions, this chest-of-drawers was made by one of Newport's leading cabinetmakers, very possibly John Goddard (1724-1785), who had close ties to the chest's probably first owner. The fine cabinetwork indicates the hand of an accomplished craftsman and, with vertical glueblocks affixed directly to the underside of the bottom and flanked by horizontal glueblocks, the foot construction contrasts with the work of John Townsend (1733-1809), who placed the vertical glueblock underneath the horizontal blocks. Also, the drawers bear the letters A, B, C and D and the handwriting differs from those known to have been written by Townsend (see Michael Moses, Master Craftsmen of Newport: The Townsends and Goddards (Tenafly, NJ, 1984), pp. 102-103, figs. 3.8-3.12a; Morrison H. Heckscher, John Townsend, Newport Cabinetmaker (New York, 2005), pp. 90, 92).
The chest-of-drawers is being offered by a direct descendant of Thomas Robinson (1730-1817) of Newport, whose house at 64 Washington Street, Newport stands as one of the most important survivals of colonial Newport architecture. According to family records, the chest descended in the Robinson family and may have been commissioned by Thomas, who was the neighbor and friend of John Goddard. The chest was owned by Thomas's daughter Mary (1759-1829), in whose line it descended. In 1793, she married John Morton (d. 1828) of Philadelphia and by the latter 19th century, the Robinson House was the summer residence of their grandson, Benjamin Raper Smith (1825-1904). In all likelihood, this chest remained in the Robinson House through the lifetime of Benjamin's son, Edward Wanton Smith (1875-1940). Upon the latter's death, the Robinson House passed to his son, Edward Wharton Smith (b. 1920), but the chest descended in the line of another son, William Wharton Smith (1912-2005). For other examples of furniture from the Robinson House, which descended to Edward Wanton Smith, see Christie's New York, 21 January, 2005, lots 544-551. For more on the Robinson, Morton and Smith families, see Thomas R. Hazard, Recollections of Olden Times: Rowland Robinson of Narragansett (Newport, 1879), pp. 19-20, 31, 152, 155; John Russell Bartlett, History of the Wanton Family (Providence, 1878), pp. 16-17, 145-147; Anna Wharton Smith, Genealogy of the Fisher Family (Philadelphia, 1896), p.108.