59 School Street, Box 1310, Edgartown MA 02539 - 508.627.4441
Martha's Vineyard Museum MV Museum



Southeastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island

Mahogany, chestnut, white pine, brass

Bequest of Florence M. and Clara L. Troemner

This high chest of drawers descended through the family of Hannah Harper Pease and her husband, mariner and Revolutionary War privateer Ephraim Pease of Edgartown. Along with it came a story of young Hannah discovering precious mahogany, lost cargo from a shipwreck, floating near the shore one moonlit night as she and two friends waded along the Vineyard's south beach. According to the tale, each young woman retrieved enough wood for a highboy and a table. Hanna is said to have entrusted her mahogany to an Edgartown craftsman who built this splendid piece of furniture for her.

There is little information about cabinetmakers working on the Island in the 1700s and 1800s. This piece has details of design and construction that are similar to those of furniture made in Salem and Rhode Island, but experts believe it was more likely made in southeastern Massachusetts. No Edgartown cabinetmaker or pieces of similar Martha's Vineyard furniture have yet been identified.

Regardless of where they bought their elegant furniture, it is clear that wealthy Vineyarders filled their houses with fashionable goods. An escutcheon similar to the hardware on the high chest of drawers was excavated during an archaeological dig at the Museum's Cooke House.