- Published on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 15:31
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A Northern Neck lady, who formerly lived in the Shenandoah Valley, purchased this jelly cabinet many years ago. The wood is walnut, and the simple hardware appears to be original. The ends are solid, as opposed to being paneled, and the secondary wood is poplar. The panels of the two doors are chamfered. The owner thinks the finish is original, as she can find no drip marks indicating refinishing.
The cabinet is typical of Shenandoah Valley construction, especially with the use of walnut and poplar. The architecture of the piece is excellent, and the iron handles of the drawers well could have been forged locally.
The cabinetmaker who crafted this piece either left immediately thereafter for the War Between the States, or made it soon upon his return from the conflict. In other words, it dates from the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Shenandoah Valley artisans produced some of the finest American furniture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Generally, their work displays a simple elegance, as found in this piece. They executed solid items with simple designs. They dovetailed every drawer, front and back, and mortised all of the framework. Consequently, their work has endured and withstood the passage of time.
This piece is known as a jelly cabinet as the shelving inside allowed for the over-winter storage of jellies made from local fruits and berries. The purpose was utilitarian, as was that of most Shenandoah Valley furniture. Fifty years ago pieces from the Valley brought very little, but the region has come into its own as a recognized American furniture genre, a development which mirrors that of the Valley's stoneware pottery.
The cabinet is worth $750, assuming that the finish is original; if not, the value would be considerably less. I recommend keeping the piece clean, and well covered with a good paste or butcher's wax. This example reflects the high quality of its period and region.