By any measure, Captian Samuel Morris epitomized the strength and independence of the cultural elite in Colonial America. His vigorous statesmanship made him a significant force in the move for freedom from English domination. In 1765, he signed the Non-Importation Resolutions prohibiting trade with England. His patriotic zeal extended to furnishings as well. He was among the first to "buy American," patronizing Colonial craftsmen who were developing a distinct style inspired by English designs, those favored by the Colonial elite. Writing to his nephew Samuel Morris, Jr. on May 18, 1865, he declared:
Household goods may be had here as cheap and as well made from English patterns. In the humor people are in here, a man is in danger of becoming Invidiously distinguished, who buys anything in England which our Tradesmen can furnish. I have heard the joiners [cabinet-makers] here object this against Dr. Morgan and others who brought their furnishings with them...." (William MacPherson Hornor, Jr. Blue Book Philadelphia Furniture, Washington, D.C., 1977, p. 81).
Samuel Morris became a Captain of the Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse duing The Revolution, and fought at the battles of Princeton and Trenton. The actions of this troop were commended by General Washington:
The composed of Gentlemen of Fortune, they have shown a noble example of discipline and subordination, and in several actions have shown a spirit of Bravery which will ever do Honor to them, and will ever be gratefully remembered by me." (See, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources,, Vol. 7, Washington, D.C., 1932, p. 55).
This chest-on-chest represents one of a small number of case pieces made in Philadelphia with carved embellishments attributed to the carving firm of Nicholas Bernard and Martin Jugiez. They are well-known for their architectural carving embellishments of Philadelphia's grandest 18th century houses, including Chief Justice Benjamin Chew's house in Germantown, "Cliveden," and Captain John MacPherson's home, "Mount Pleasant." The firm also carved embellishments on furniture, including the Important Cornelius Stevenson Chippendale mahogany tea table which sold in these Rooms on January 20, 1990, Lot 664.
Related case examples include The Fisher Family Chippendale chest-on-chest, now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (See Morrison H. Heckscher, American Furniture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, II, Late Colonial Period: The Queen Anne and Chippendale Styles, (New York, 1985), pp. 226-228, no. 147); and a chest-on-chest now in a private collection which sold in these Rooms from the collection of May and Howard Joynt, January 20, 1990, Lot 497.