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Home | Articles | Capen Perkins Chest of Drawers

Initials of Reverend Joseph Capen (1658–1725) and his wife,
Priscilla Appleton Capen (1657–1743), of Topsfield, Massachusetts
Ipswich or Newbury, Massachusetts, 1685
Oak, ash, chestnut, and hickory
H. 35 1/2" W. 44" D. 20 1/2"
Courtesy of The Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine

This historical chest was the gift of Mrs. William Goedecke, Mrs. William Lamborn, and Mrs. Edwin Hooker, direct descendants of the original owners. On the basis of their initials and the date carved on the drawer fronts, as well as genealogical data, the chest has been traced back to the Reverend Joseph Capen (1658–1725) and his wife, Priscilla Appleton Capon (1657–1743), of Topsfield, Massachusetts. The Capens are celebrated historically because their house, built in 1683, still stands in Topsfield, where it is owned and maintained by the Topsfield Historical Society.

The Capen Perkins chest is one of six attributed to an unidentified but prolific joinery shop located in either Ipswich or Newbury, Massachusetts. Thirteen cupboards and numerous other treasured case pieces created at this shop are now in museum collections across the nation.

What makes the Capen chest so important is its superb condition and its elaborate carved and applied ornament. The only chest with this much ornament is the famous Staniford-Heard chest-of-drawers in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum in Winterthur, Delaware.

The elaborate carvings lead one to believe that the chest was carved as a wedding gift. The piece itself is rare, but equally rare is that this significant piece can be traced back through twenty-five generations.

This priceless chest traveled to the Kennebunks from Topsfield, Massachusetts, in 1801 where it resided in the Eliphlet Perkins House in Kennebunkport. The extremely rare survival of a seventeenth-century dower chest represents the high level of craftsmanship found in Colonial New England soon after the arrival of English settlers.

In the fall of 1999, the three remarkable sisters stepped forward and graciously donated the chest to the museum for future generations to enjoy. Today it is the Brick Store Museum’s most prized possession.

From May 4 to July 29, the Capen chest will be showcased at the Milwaukee Art Museum in Puritan Classicism-17th Century Cupboards of Massachusetts before returning to the Brick Store in August to be on permanent display. The chest will be featured in a major article in the journal American Furniture in December 2001. For more information, visit www.brickstoremuseum.org.

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