Owned by Thomas McKean, a Delaware signer of the Declaration of Independence, this distinctive sofa was made in Philadelphia between 1770 and 1790.
Sofas were expensive and rare items even among wealthy families of the 18th century. The peaks flanking the back of the sofa’s central arch or serpentine are rare decorative options; in fact, only eight other examples are known to exist. The wool upholstery was fashionable, more durable and less costly than silk. Whatever the fabric, upholstery was an expensive purchase, costing between 10 and 20 pounds—almost as much as a yearly salary for most people. (The upholstery shown here is not original, but the fabric is an accurate re-creation.)
The sofa, listed in McKean’s 1817 estate inventory, was a gift of the Mary Washington Chapter, Washington, D.C.
American Spirit, Volume 142, Number 4, July/August 2008, Page 6
Photo by Mark Gulezian/Quicksilver