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PMA photo studio.

Philadelphia Triple Chest


Accession #: 1932.45.101 abc
Date: c. 1735–1745
Owner: PMA
Artist: Unknown
Materials: Wood (cherry, hard pine, white cedar); copper alloy (brass)
Dimensions: 6 feet 1/4 inches × 41 1/8 inches × 22 1/2 inches (183.5 × 104.5 × 57.2 cm)

This cherry triple chest (or chest-on-chest-on-chest) from Cedar Grove entered the PMA collection as a bequest of Lydia Thompson Morris in 1932. It is thought to have belonged to Elizabeth Coates Paschall, who built Cedar Grove as her country house in northeast Philadelphia in 1748. 

The chest is not currently attributed to a maker in PMA’s database, but PMA curator Alexandra Kirtley’s recent catalog, American Furniture 1650–1840: Highlights from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, cites an entry in cabinetmaker John Head’s account book for a “walnut Chest of Drawers In – 3 parts.” That chest was purchased from Head by John Rouse in 1744 and is another documented example of this rare form.


Head’s account book was discovered in 1999 by Jay Robert Steifel at the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. The account book documents the output from 1718–1753 of the workshop of English joiner John Head, who emigrated to Philadelphia in 1717. According to Steifel, the account book has functioned as a “Rosetta Stone” for understanding and identifying Head’s work, allowing over sixty pieces of furniture to be attributed to Head’s shop, “five of which can be tied to entries in the account book”

During examination of this chest in PMA’s furniture lab in Fall 2020, I noted chalk markings on the sides and backs of three drawers that do not appear to be documented elsewhere. Further research, compiled here, suggests that these markings are consistent with the system of marking drawers used on other case pieces attributed to John Head and that many aspects of the PMA triple chest’s construction and materials also have strong similarities to the methods and materials used on other pieces attributed to Head. 

View summary of historical research HERE

View examination and treatment report HERE

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