With the Chapel Street label of Thomas Burling, this candlestand is a rare example of documented furniture from colonial New York and one of only four known pieces bearing Burling's earliest label. Burling apprenticed to Samuel Prince and in 1769 was made a freeman with his occupation listed as "cabinetmaker." Advertisements and city directories indicate that Burling's career covered the years from 1769 to 1797 and his workshop was located at various addresses on Beekman Street. The 1773 directory specifically refers to Beekman Street as "commonly called Chappel Street" and it is thought that Burling's Chapel Street label dates to the early 1770s, before the Beekman name became standard usage. The three other pieces bearing the same label comprise two almost identical candlestands and a slant-front desk (see Dean Failey, Long Island Is My Nation: The Decorative Arts & Craftsmen 1640-1830 (Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, 1976), cat. 110, p. 92 and Christie's New York, Fine American Furniture, Silver, Folk Art and Decorative Arts, January 20-21, 1989, lot 722; Philip H. Bradley Co., advertisement, Antiques (January 1978), p. 93; For Burling's career, see "Thomas Burling," unpublished mss., Decorative Arts Photographic Collection, Winterthur Library).
According to family tradition, the candlestand was owned by Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791), a noted patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Born in Philadelphia, Hopkinson graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with the help of his deceased father's friend and fellow scientist, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). He held numerous political and civic posts and represented New Jersey at the Continental Congress and after the war at the Constitutional Convention. A renowned poet and composer, Hopkinson is also credited with the design of the first Ameircan flag. The candlestand remained in the family until the late 20th century, descending along direct male lines for three generations.