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Robert S.
Robert S., Antiques and Collectibles Researcher
Category: Antiques
Satisfied Customers: 5839
Experience:  Expert in decorative arts especially ceramics, silver, paintings, and furniture.
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This is another family piece with the same origins as the

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This is another family piece with the same origins as the walnut slant-top secretary and the walnut hall stand that I have asked you about previously, i.e., primarily eastern PA (especially the Philadelphia area), central NY state, and Long Island. Again, por favor, anything and everything you can tell me about it…
This walnut table stands 29 ½” tall, including the original casters which are about 1” high. The thin finish is original and in very good condition, with only minor signs of wear. (Most of what look like dings in the photographs are odd reflections from the beveled glass in our front entrance side lights, reflections from the camera flash, and bits of Swiffer dust and fibers – also some dust and misc. junk from my less-than-perfect housekeeping… Honestly!) The oval, white marble top is free of blemishes and measures 20 ½” x 25” x 1” thick; it is relatively evenly figured with light to dark gray markings. The pierced wood trim below the marble top is 5/8” thick with saw marks visible inside the piercings and along its lower edge. The upper portions of the four carved legs that support the top are made of 1” thick walnut and lack saw marks. They join a 10” tall pedestal from which they separate and continue as carved, arched legs that flare into 5” broad acanthus leaves(?) at their “knees.” The flared portions of the lower legs have saw marks on their lower surfaces and, to a lesser degree, on the finished edges. The pedestal is topped with a small pyramid that is visible in the photograph of the entire table and just below the white exclamation point in the photograph of the base of the table.
Thank you,
Eloise L. Styer

Hi Eloise,

Good to hear from you! Just letting you know I got the marble top table and photos. Another great piece of furniture and wonderful to see that marble in such good shape.

Thanks for the comprehensive description! (Swiffer marks and all, that made me smile!) I'll have a full answer for you as soon as I can.

Many thanks,

Hi Eloise,

What a pretty table. This is indeed the same style and period as your secretary and hall stand, and typical of American 'Gothic' or 'Renaissance Revival' of the last quarter of the 1800s. The acanthus leaf 'wings' adorning the legs and the little pyramid are very unusual and distinctive features. Thanks for marking the little pyramid, by the way, I probably would have missed that in the photo, if you hadn't mentioned it.

It would be described as:

  • An American Renaissance Revival Walnut Side Table, third quarter 19th century, the period Carrara marble top resting on a ribbed frieze and shaped & pierced apron, raised on four scroll-carved supports that join to form a cruciform-section pedestal centered with a quartered and engaged vasiform colonette below a small pyramid finial, the pedestal extending to form ornately carved scrolling legs ornamented with exuberantly carved acanthus leaves with upturned tips raised on original metal casters.

This example of a table of similar form, materials and period, but less ornate, sold at auction for $375 which is about right. Yours would sell in the range of $450 - $650 at auction. It therefore has a full retail/replacement/insurance value of $1250.

Hope this is helpful!

Best wishes,

Robert S. and other Antiques Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thanks again for your expertise. This side table was one of my mother-in-law's favorite things (mine, too). She would have been pleased with your comments.
Perhaps you can enlighten me on this point: How common and why did the Victorians leave such obvious saw marks on their otherwise finely wrought furniture? We have two small walnut balloon-back side chairs that also have saw marks - in their cases, on the inside surfaces of the legs. Wouldn't it have been pretty easy to remove them? In the case of the side chairs, the saw marks seem to have been disguised by a very thick coat of varnish that degenerated pretty badly over time. I know this is off point, but when we removed the holey old black horsehair upholstery, we found the chairs had been stuffed with hemp, i.e., marijuana. I know the hemp wasn't raised for "pain control," but just imagine the ruckus if we were raided by police with drug-sniffing dogs... Now, don't ruin my fun by cautioning me that century old hemp would be pretty unlikely to excite those dogs!
Thanks again!

That's fascinating about finding the hemp!

It used to be an important agricultural food & fiber crop that was as widespread and common as flax (for linen) or cotton until the mid-20th century when it fell out of favor due to the introduction of nylon. Nylon rope replaced hemp rope (hemp's biggest use) almost overnight. I believe that modern strains of hemp are still grown, but the breeders have selected those strains for their lack of THC, the good psychoactive and painkiller ingredient. Yours, however, would probably very well excite a sniffer dog as it easily pre-dates these modern varieties of hemp that have less than 1% THC.

As for the saw marks. These oddly-shaped and contoured pieces of woodwork can really only be created with the use of a fretsaw. Its ultra thin blade leaves these pronounced ridges which, because it's usually end-grain, are notoriously hard to sand down. It can be done, but takes a lot of extra labor and if done mechanically (for speed) can often spoil the carefully crafted curves created with the fretsaw in the first place. Also, modern industrial abrasives used in sandpaper (garnet, emery and the like with polymer resin bonding materials) did not appear commercially until the 1920s at the earliest so the cabinetmakers before that time had to rely on abrasives made from glass sand and flint grit, bonded with hide glue, which were not nearly as efficient or enduring.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
The information about the fret saw (basically a fine-toothed coping saw?) technique is fascinating. Were fret saws or smoe other tool used to make all of those curvaceous flourishes on the hall stand, only some of which have faintly rough surfaces?
As for the hemp, in the 1970's a friend visited the 'old home farm' in one of the "I" states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa) and brought back a picture of himself with a mouthful of freshly picked marijuana leaves in his smiley face as he crouched in an old field where his family once raised hemp.

I believe by the time your hall stand was made, most cabinetmakers were using mechanical or foot-driven scroll saws that operated in much the same way as a fretsaw or coping saw. In all three types, in order to make those interior cut-outs, the blade can be (has to be) removed and threaded through a pre-drilled hole, obviating the need for an entry cut.

That's a nice visual of your friend with his mouthful of hemp leaves! I've seen it occasionally in Illinois growing as a wayside weed.

Customer: replied 27 days ago.
Ahhh... The more I learn, the more ignorant I know I am!
Thanks again.