Cliffton High Chest

W - 44 3/4"
D - 22 11/16"
H - 97 3/4"

Philadelphia high chest of drawers of mahogany, poplar and white cedar. An exact reproduction of an antique in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg made and signed by Henry Cliffton and Thomas Carteret in 1753. Shown in Old Dominion semi-open pore finish.

This magnificent high chest is an exact reproduction of the original antique in the collection of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The faded ink signature on the original chest reads, “Henry Cliffton and Thomas Carteret, November 14, 1753.” The reproduction is very well known to collectors of Colonial Williamsburg furniture reproductions but very few have been so fortunate to even have the opportunity to own one of the rare chests since fewer than 20 were ever made. The craftsmanship of the reproduction showcases the highest achievement of Kittinger Company’s cabinetmakers, carvers and finishers.

The style of the high chest form originated in England but by the late 1730’s had been discarded for more stylish forms like the chest on chest and the clothespress.

As was often the case, craftsmen in some of the colonies, especially in New England and Philadelphia, retained the form for decades more. In the Cliffton-Carteret chest, the designer elaborated on the simple English prototype by adding carved rococo embellishments, a scrolled pediment and a deep undulating skirt.

Henry Cliffton began practicing his trade of cabinetmaking in 1748. In typical Quaker fashion he relied more on his reputation than on advertising to promote his business. Over the years Cliffton maintained several shops in Philadelphia and shared a few partnerships, at least one with Thomas Carteret.

Much of what is known about Henry Cliffton comes from records kept by his clients, notably the Hill and Moore families of Philadelphia. Dr. Samuel Preston Moore’s account ledger provides the first reference to Cliffton’s business, a record of a firescreen that Dr. Moore accepted as payment for medicine. Over the next several years the Moore’s patronized Cliffton regularly. He created several sets of chairs, a frame for a John Wollaston portrait of Patsy Hill and this high chest, which was probably purchased by Hannah Hill and her husband, Dr. Moore.

Cliffton’s high chest demonstrates the presence of the “modern style” in Philadelphia prior to the availability of publications such as Thomas Chippendale’s Cabinetmaker’s Director.

The Kittinger reproduction features the scrolled bonnet, elaborate finials and decorative brasses seen on the original, as well as the carved embellishments typical of the rococo style. In addition to the attention given to the decorative exterior, Kittinger cabinetmakers recreated the structural devices which made the original piece structurally sound. The drawers are hand dovetailed at the edges. Drawer guides, thin strips of wood glued to the interior, prevent the drawers from wobbling, and dustboards, slid into place between each drawer compartment, protect the items stored inside. Like the original, the interior is constructed from tulip poplar and white cedar, woods which were indigenous to the Middle Colonies. The finest mahogany was used for the exterior.

Over the years Kittinger Company produced so many outstanding reproductions of Colonial Williamsburg antiques it is impossible to choose which is the best. However, this magnificent Philadelphia chest must be high on any knowledgeable collectors list of the most admired examples of the Kittinger-Williamsburg collaboration. This is the fifth Cliffton Chest offered for sale by Elmwood Company in the past 16 years.

Kittinger Company Facts and Figures related to the Cliffton High Chest, pattern CW200

Overall Dimensions: H97 ¾” W44 ¾” (at the waist) D22 11/16” (at the waist)

142 different parts – 391 pieces total per unit

70 Glue Blocks, 4 wedged tenons, 12 completely hand carved components

280 drawer dovetails, 18 case dovetails, all hand crafted.

Primary Wood – Mahogany

Secondary Woods – Poplar and Atlantic White cedar

Kittinger Company production statistics related to the Cliffton High Chest, pattern CW200

3000 man hours by 6 Kittinger master craftsmen over 10 months of development

Carving Department time – 220 man hours

Design and engineering development time – 1200 man-hours


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Kittinger Product Legend
HN = Historic Newport
CW = Colonial Williamsburg
WA = Williamsburg Adaptation
OD = Old Dominion
RH = Richmond Hill