Surviving with restoration to the carving on the front rail and a top possibly replaced in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth centuries, this slab-top table remains an extremely rare example of the form from colonial America.
Its squared ball-and-claw feet and shallow rail carving with punched ground, are regionally expressive features found on other New York City tables from the mid- to late-eighteenth century. The central carving is closely related to that on a card table, which bears knee carving linking it to the shop of Marinus Willet and Jonathan Pearsall, who were in partnership from 1763 to 1775, providing an approximate date of production for this table. As noted by Luke Beckerdite, the rail carving on both of these tables relates to architectural carving by British immigrant carvers who emigrated to New York in the early to mid-1760s (Luke Beckerdite, "Immigrant Carvers and the Development of the Rococo Style in New York, 1750-1770," American Furniture 1996, Luke Beckerdite, ed. (Milwaukee, WI, 1996), p. 265, fn. 24). Another slab-top table, which descended in the Van Rensselaer family and with replaced marble, bears similar frame shaping, legs and feet and is thought to be from the same shop (Pook & Pook, Downington, Pennsylvania, November 23, 2002, lot 170). The color and wear on the underside of the marble top indicates that it has been on the current frame for a long time. However, the frame is slightly asymmetrical, and adjustments have been made to one back corner. Though it is possible that the cabinetmaker made this correction after receiving the marble top at the time of its production, it is also likely that this alteration was made at a later date to accommodate a replaced top.
As indicated by the top's inscription, the table was presented by Colonel Elijah St. John (1767-1854) of Fabius, New York perhaps to the town's First Baptist Church, where he was a trustee. Born in Sharon Connecticut, St. John married Nancy Howell (1766-1853), the daughter of Abraham and Abigail (Freeman). The Howells resided on Long Island before removing to Chester, Vermont during the Revolution and it is possible that St. John acquired the table through his wife's family (see Stephen Whitney Phoenix, The Whitney Family of Connecticut, p. 98). Furthermore, recorded in the 1788 Vermont census as living in Weybridge, St. John resided in western Vermont and both Weybridge and Chester were within forty miles of West Rutland, the region identified by Richard Pieper as being the source of the marble (Sotheby's New York, January 19, 2003, p. 225). It is possible that the original top did not survive the journey from New York and was replaced either by the Howells or St. John in the late eighteenth century. In 1797, St. John moved to New York where he was one of the first settlers of Fabius, in Onondaga County.
Recently fully revealed, the graphite inscription, H.P. Corben, Fabius, NY, may refer to (Henry) Payson Corbin (1774-1856). Born in Thompson, Connecticut, Corbin was later with his family in Warren, in western Pennsylvania near the New York border and in the 1850 Census, he is recorded as living nearby in Owego, New York. Though no connection to Fabius, New York has been found, Corbin may have temporarily stopped in Fabius in his journeys westward. Furthermore, his first cousin once removed, Lewis Corbin (1794-1840) was noted to be a stone cutter, a profession possibly shared by Henry Payson who may have executed the inscription at the time of its presentation (Commemorative Biographical Record of Tolland and Windham Counties, Conn. (Chicago, 1903), p. 212).