Unknown maker, attributed to Bourbon County, Kentucky
Primary wood: walnut Secondary wood: walnut and oak
21½ ” h x 47¾ ” w x 21 3/8″ d
Ref. No. 100512_036
This handsome blanket box is an uncommon find among late 18th century Kentucky cabinetry. Our example survives in an extraordinary state of preservation. The interior has worn rococo vine and leaf motifs drawn in the till area and on the top of the backboard. The use of wrought nails and the selection of oak as a secondary wood in the hidden drawer of the till are features occasionally encountered on the earliest made Kentucky furniture. The bracket-footed base and center drop are characteristic elements of similar furniture forms, which date within the last quarter of the 18th century in America. Curiously the two forms of furniture, which survives from Kentucky that appears to date from the 18th century, are overwhelmingly the blanket box and corner cupboard. With less than a 25-year window for cabinetry in our state during the pioneer period, very few examples come forward without loss or alteration.
According to a note prepared by the widow of Frank McDonald, which accompanies the blanket box, the ownership can be traced through the McDonald family of Bourbon County. Frank McDonald (1889-1971) inherited the box from his Aunt Sadie McDonald. The blanket box was passed to Sadie (Sarah E.) McDonald (1852-1937) from her father Martin McDonald.
James Martin McDonald, Sadie’s father, was born about 1805, died sometime after 1880. Though ownership prior to James Martin McDonald is not presently known, the earliest record of McDonalds, (James, Hugh, and Frances) in Bourbon County can be found on the Bourbon County tax rolls dating from 1789.
Possible candidates, working in or near Bourbon County prior to 1800, for the maker of this box according to Edna Talbott Whitley’s A Checklist of Kentucky Cabinetmakers, from 1775 to 1859 are a group that includes: George Barnett, William Benson, Henry David, Jacob David, James Dudley Jr., Jesse Grant, Peter Grant, Robert Grant, Ben & William Harwick, Jacob Leer, Barnabus Miller, Alexander Mitchell and his son Gavin, Thomas Moss, George Northcut, Mr. Spillman, and Joseph Wharton.
Old sensitive refinish, otherwise fine crisp condition without patch or loss.
Provenance: James Martin McDonald, Sarah E. McDonald, Frank McDonald, Hugh and Buck Brent, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas A., Strohfeldt, Hugh and Buck Brent, Dawson Crookes, Clifton Anderson.
Exhibition/Publication Record: Kentucky Furniture exhibition and catalog, May 12 through June 30, 1974, J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky,