Surviving in pristine condition, this bombe chest-of-drawers is a rare survival of eighteenth-century Massachusetts' most celebrated furniture design. From its old, subtle patina to its original brasses and undisturbed foot construction (fig. 1), the chest is close to its original appearance and over the course of its history has been well preserved by its owners in the Ropes and Upham families of Salem.
The chest is closely related to approximately ten other examples that together represent the work of a school of cabinetmaking with ties to both Boston and Salem (figs. 2 and 3). Displaying tops with notched corners, a visible rail below the bottom drawer, seemingly identical base moldings, and the same drop and foot designs, the chests appear to have been made by craftsmen of similar training or working in close proximity. Subtle variations in the proportions and design include the curvature of the case sides. Several of the chests have the bulge beginning abruptly at the top of the third drawer whereas others, including this chest, have a more gradual flare beginning at the level of the second drawer. While such variations could be explained by an evolution within one shop, more significant differences in construction, such as the presence of a full dustboard in the chest in fig. 2, indicate the work of different hands.
The treatment of the inner surfaces of the case sides supports a Boston attribution (fig. 4). Confronted with the difficulty of working with curved structural members, the cabinetmaker employed a technique that allowed for the use of straight drawer sides that from the outside appear to follow the bombe shaping. While the outer surface bulges from the second to fourth drawers, a portion of the inner surface remains straight, revealing the full thickness of the original board at the third drawer divider. Set back to receive the projecting lips of the drawer fronts, these portions essentially serve as drawer stops and guides for the drawer sides. As is evidenced by the rough plane marks, the cabinetmaker removed the excess wood behind these portions to lessen the overall weight of the form. Similar treatment is seen on the chests in figs. 2 and 3, although the excess wood was not removed in the SPNEA example, and on chests documented and attributed to Boston cabinetmakers, including John Cogswell (1738-1819). In contrast, the bombe chests attributed to Henry Rust (1737-1812), the only Salem cabinetmaker that can be associated with the bombe form, feature drawers with curved sides and conforming shaping on the interior surfaces of the case sides.
However, in light of several of the chests' provenances, it is possible that the chests were made in Salem, perhaps by Boston-trained cabinetmakers. Though the town's wealthiest residents could have ordered their furniture from Boston, Salem supported a robust cabinetmaking community certainly capable of producing these forms. Three of the four chests from this group with known family histories descended in Salem families, including this chest, which descended in the Haraden-Ropes family.
THE HARADEN AND ROPES FAMILIES OF SALEM
Documentary research supports the family tradition that this chest was part of a bequest from a Hannah Ropes of Salem to the consignors' ancestor, Charles Wentworth Upham (1802-1875) (fig. 5). Hannah Haraden Ropes (1791-1862) died unmarried and childless. In her will, she divided her estate among cousins, charities and Charles Wentworth Upham to whom she bequeathed her house with "all its moveables, chattels of every sort" except those items specifically left to others in the will. These moveables most likely included an old mahogany chest owned by her grandfather, Jonathan Haraden (1744-1803). His will describes only two items in detail, the first of which is a "Mahogany Bureau" for his daughter, Mrs. Hannah Ropes. A widow at the time of her death in 1845, Mrs. Ropes left all her property to her two daughters, Hannah Haraden and Abigail and as Abigail died unmarried the following year, Hannah Haraden Ropes probably received the entire estate. Though possible, it is unlikely that she inherited furniture from her paternal grandparents. Known as the Ropes Mansion, the house of her grandfather, Judge Nathaniel Ropes (1726-1774) descended to her uncle and was given by his descendants to the Peabody Essex Museum in 1903. Thus, the bombe chest offered here is very likely the "Mahogany Bureau" owned by her maternal grandfather, Jonathan Haraden.
"Jonathan Haraden was a sea-dog of the approved pattern. Bold, persevering and indomitable, he made himself a terror to the enemy, and, with others of like temper, soon made Salem a magazine of supplies of every kind, taken from the merchantmen of Great Britain."
-D. Hamiliton Hurd, comp., History of Essex County, Massachusetts (Philadelphia, 1888), p. 12.
Captain Jonathan Haraden was a celebrated merchant mariner and privateer of his day. Born in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1744 to Joseph and Johanna (Emerson) Haraden, he worked as a young boy for Joseph Cabot, a merchant of Salem and, while not on the high seas, lived in Salem until his death in 1803. Commander of the Tyrannicide, General Pickering and Julius Caesar during the American Revolution, he achieved considerable notoriety for his audacious attacks upon the British and, although frequently confronted by a superior vessel, never hesitated to engage the enemy. His successes were recognized by the owners of the Pickering, who presented Haraden with a tankard and two canns engraved with the vessel and his cipher. Of baluster form, these canns echo the shape of a bombe chest. After these adventures, he appears to have led a more settled life in Salem as a maker of shipping supplies and in 1799, his factory produced the rigging for the frigate Essex, the only warship made in Salem. He had married Hannah Deadman (b. 1747), the daughter of William and Hannah (Goodhue) Deadman in 1767 and three years later built a new house, two events that could have inspired the commission of this chest. After her death, he married twice more, to widows Eunice Mason in 1782 and Mary Scallam in 1797. His own death in 1803 was noted by the Salem diarist William Bentley who described him as "one of our most intrepid Commanders" and "an accomplished gentleman." His inventory included a brick house on the south side of Essex Street valued at $3800 and two items that could refer to this bombe chest: a bureau valued at $4 and a chest of drawers valued at $20. The house was still standing in 1928, when it bore a plaque commemorating Haraden's patriotism and bravery.
Jonathan's daughter, Hannah, married John Ropes (1763-1828) in 1787. A captain and sea merchant, he was the son of Judge Nathaniel and Priscilla (Sparhawk) Ropes. It was his house, purchased from a member of the Cogswell-Abbot family at 313 Essex Street, that his daughter Hannah Haraden Ropes bequeathed, along with her furnishings, to Charles Wentworth Upham. Upham was born in 1802 in St. Johns, New Brunswick, the son of loyalist refugees, the Hon. Joshua and Mary (Chandler) Upham. The younger Upham returned to Massachusetts and after graduating from Harvard College in 1821, and the Divinity School in 1824, moved to Salem where he was a pastor in the town's First Church. In the 1840s, he entered politics and was the Mayor of Salem, a member of the State Senate and House of Representatives and, from 1853 to 1855 a Representative to the US Congress. One of the founders of the Essex Institute, he was a keen historian and a prolific author on subjects and people relating to Salem's history, including a two volume work on Salem witchcraft. Among his friends and correspondents were the literary figures, Ralph Waldo Emerson, a Harvard classmate, and John Greenleaf Whittier.
He married Ann Susan Holmes (1804-1877), daughter of Rev. Abiel and Susan (Wendell) Holmes in 1826. Aside from Hannah Haraden Ropes's will, there is much evidence that the Ropes and Upham families were very close. Soon after their arrival in Salem, the Uphams named a son, John Ropes Upham in 1828, the year Hannah Haraden Ropes's father, John Ropes died and, in 1840, Charles W. Upham was a witness to the will of her mother. Many years later, in 1867, he wrote a recommendation on behalf of a "Major Ropes," to his congressional colleague, Benjamin F. Butler (1818-1893). Charles Wentworth Upham died in 1875 and his wife died two years later. The chest probably remained in Salem until the early twentieth century, when it was inherited by Dorothy Quincy Upham who was living with her cousin, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in Washington D.C. (see lot 436). The chest then descended to her granddaughters, the present owners.
1.The group is identified in Brock Jobe and Myrna Kaye,New England Furniture (Boston, 1984), cat. 18, pp. 152-153, fns. 9-11 and cites the following examples: Charles W. Lyon, advertisement, Antiques (April 1961), p. 319; Israel Sack, Inc., advertisement, Antiques (August 1976); Ginsburg & Levy, advertisement, Antiques (Feb. 1950), p. 101; Parke-Bernet, 1957, sale 1776, lot 91; Sotheby Parke Bernet, the Garbisch Collection, sale H2, May 1980, vol. 4, lot 1159; DAPC 70.3778; Americana, Midwest Collectors Choice, 15, no. 31; DAPC 66.2373 (the latter two may refer to the same chest). See also a chest that Sold in these Rooms, January 16, 1998, lot 469 (fig. ?); a chest formerly owned by Wayne Pratt, Inc., DAPC 2001.140.
2.For the interior of the SPNEA chest, see Jobe and Kaye, fig. 18a; Robert Mussey and Anne Rogers Haley, "John Cogswell and Boston Bombe Furniture: Thirty-Five Years of Revolution in Politics and Design," American Furniture 1994, Luke Beckerdite, ed. (Milwaukee, 1994), figs. 9, 11, 13, pp. 83, 104-105; Gilbert T. Vincent, "The Bombe Furniture of Boston," Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century (Boston, 1974), fig. 127, p. 181.
3.See Nancy E. Richards and Nancy Goyne Evans,New England Furniture at Winterthur (Winterthur, 1997), cat. 185, pp. 377-378; Vincent, fig. 121, p. 173.
4.Will of Hannah Haraden Ropes, 1862, Essex County Probate Records, Old Series (ECPR ), vol. 422, p. 83; Will of Jonathan Haraden, 1803, ECPR, vol. 371, pp. 268-269; Will of Hannah Ropes, 1845, ECPR, vol. 413, p. 176; for the Ropes mansion, see "The Nathaniel Ropes Estate," Essex Institute Historical Collections (EIHC), vol. XL, no. 1 (Jan. 1904), pp. 1-12.
5.For illustrations of Jonathan Haraden and the silver canns, see Ralph M. Eastman, "Jonathan Haraden's Spectacular Fight," Some Famous Privateers of New England (1928), pp.12-18; for more on his career as a privateer, see Ralph D. Paine, The Old Merchant Marine: A Chronicle of American Ships and Sailors, available at www.munarchaeology.com/munarchaeology/stories/merchant/ch03.htm. See also, "Portraits in the Peabody Museum," EIHC, vol. 73, pp. 371-373; EIHC, vol. 10, part III, p. 11.
6."List of Houses Built in Salem, 1750-1773," EIHC, vol. 58 (1922), p. 295; Sidney Perley, The History of Salem, Massachusetts (Salem, 1928), vol. III, pp. 158, 415; Vital Records of Salem (Salem, 1916), vol. 3, pp. 467-468; [November 23, 1803 entry], The Diary of William Bentley, vol. 3 (Gloucester, MA, 1962), p. 62; Inventory of the Estate of Jonathan Haraden, 1804, ECPR, vol. 371, pp. 401-402; the plaque is illustrated in Eastman, p. 15. Haraden is also said to have lived in the Francis Cabot house at 299 Essex Street. See L. Vernon Briggs, History and Genealogy of the Cabot family (Boston 1927), pp. 33-35, 44, illustration facing p. 48.
7."Materials for a History of the Ropes Family," EIHC, vol. 7, p. 200. Oliver Thayer, "Early Recollections of the Upper Portion of Essex Street," EIHC, vol. 21, p. 218.
8.George E. Ellis, "Memoir of Charles Wentworth Upham," Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (Dec. 1876), extract reprinted in F.K. Upham, Upham Genealogy (Albany, NY, 1892), pp. 201-218; letters from Emerson and Whittier to Upham are in the possession of the family.
9.Upham Genealogy, p. 218; Will of Hannah Ropes, 1845, ECPR, vol. 413, p. 176; letter, Benjamin F. Butler to Upham, July 22, 1867, in possession of the family.
Fig. 1Lot 435, detail of underside.
Fig. 2[SPNEA chest]
Fig. 3Bombi chest, Boston or Salem. Sold in these Rooms, January 16, 1998, lot 469.
Fig. 4 Lot 435, detail of interior.
Fig. 5 [portrait of Charles Wentworth Upham]