Displaying double-scroll supports, reeded legs with shallow leaf carving and joined by arched rails, and brass lion's paw feet, this accordion-action dining table is virtually identical to another example attributed to the Philadelphia cabinetmaker Henry Connelly (1770-1826) and formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords. The attribution is based on a pair of card tables documented to Connelly by an 1817 bill of sale and made for the financier Francis Girard that feature closely related knee carving and the same brass feet (Sotheby's New York, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords, October 28-29, 2004, lot 268; Marian Carson, "Sheraton's Influence in Philadelphia: The Parallel Works of Henry Connelly and Ephraim Haines," Antiques (April 1953), p. 344; Wendy Cooper, Classical Taste in America (New York, 1993), cat. 109, pp. 151-152). For similar accordion-action dining tables, see Christie's New York, October 8, 1997, lot 62; Northeast Auctions, August 1-3, 2003, lot 790; Israel Sack, Inc., American Antiques from Israel Sack, vol. 1, p. 34, no. 110 and vol. 5, pp. 1306-7, P4216; Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury (New York, 1928), no. 1000.
Based on a design by Richard Gillow (1734-1811) of Gillow and Co., Lancaster and London, England, the table's expanding base required both aesthetic and technical virtuosity and during the early nineteenth century, and such forms were the products of the more accomplished cabinetmakers in New York and Philadelphia. Along with Ephraim Haines, Connelly was one of the latter's leading furniture makers during the Federal era and, with style-conscious clients such as Girard and Henry Hollingsworth, it is evident that his products were acclaimed in their day.
The sale of the table is accompanied by a bill of sale from the table's last family owner, Joseph George Hooper, Jr. (1893-1987) to the dealer Harry Arons. Dated 1963, the bill states the purchase price of $6,500 and Hooper describes the item as "1 Mahogany Extension Table which belonged in my family." Hooper goes into greater detail of the table's history in a typewritten account, which also accompanies the sale of this table. In this account, he states that the table was given to his great-grandfather, William Halsted (Halstead) (1794-1878) by Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844) and then passed directly down in the Halsted-Hooper family. While elements of his history are inaccurate (he states that the table was brought from France), other evidence supports the family tradition.
Joseph Bonaparte, the elder brother of the French Emperor, and previously the King of Spain and Naples, fled to America after Napolean's defeat at Waterloo in 1815. He initially resided in Philadelphia while he purchased and began building his estate, Point Breeze, in Bordentown, New Jersey. Thus, he would have likely been purchasing furniture from the city's leading cabinetmakers at the time the table was made. Furthermore, period accounts of Point Breeze describe a large a table that could seat twenty four people, a size that is comparable to this table as it measures over thirteen feet when fully extended (Patricia Tyson Stroud, "Point Breeze: Joseph Bonaparte's American retreat," Antiques (October 2002), p. 135). Interestingly, a similar table is also said to have been owned by Joseph Bonaparte; however, with a length of only nine feet three inches, could not have been the table described above (Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., Important Early Cabinetwork from the Estate of the Late Mrs. C. Hallam Keep, October 19, 1963, lot 176).
Though no direct link to Bonaparte has been found, William Halsted was a leading lawyer in Trenton, located just eight miles from Bordentown, during the time Bonaparte resided at Point Breeze. He later served in the US House of Representatives and as a Colonel in the Civil War (William Leon Halstead, The Story of the Halsteads of the United States (Privately printed, n.d.), p. 8). The Hooper account states that Halsted gave the table to his daughter, Frances Bostwick Halsted (c.1826-1879) upon her marriage George Frederick Hooper (1826-before 1904) in the early 1860s. The couple moved to San Francisco, later moved to an estate in Sonoma and after the death of his wife, George Frederick Hooper returned to San Francisco, at which time he gave the table to his son, Joseph G. Hooper (1868-1935), the father of the last family member to own the table.