Mack Cox and Philip Zea Discuss Kentucky and New England Furniture

Apr 22, 2021

We were thrilled to celebrate the decorative arts of Kentucky with renowned collector and PowerPoint pro Mack Cox, as we await our Spring Symposium in Lexington and Louisville in April 2022. Mack presented his lecture “Tracking New England Footprints in Early Kentucky Furniture (1790-1820)” and was joined in conversation with Philip Zea, Historic Deerfield President and CEO.

Trust members Mack and Sharon Cox have built an exceptional collection of Southern decorative arts that were at the heart of this engaging presentation. Mack drew upon his dedicated study of furniture from the Bluegrass State to discuss how early immigrant cabinetmakers crafted furniture in Kentucky in distinct styles that reflect the diverse origins of their makers.

In 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state, and Mack explained “Before Kentucky there were three American regions: New England, the Midatlantic, and the South. But Kentucky was in a new region called the West, and everyone knew it.” Although Kentucky had unique standing in the West, it was a diverse region home to migrants from around the country and globe. This diversity of residents is reflected in Kentucky furniture.

Focusing on the Rococo and Neoclassical stylistic periods with furnishings made between 1790-1820, Mack shared the stylistic commonalities that have enabled him to trace the influence of New England furniture in Kentucky. Elements like biscuit corners, delicate proportions, and inlaid icicles connect Bluegrass furniture to New England cousins. Specialized furniture forms like Kentucky-made tambour desks reinforce these ties.

Mack has produced tremendous research on the backgrounds of important Kentucky cabinet makers whose work indicates a relationship with New England. For example, Mack shared some of the 960 clocks that Elijah Warner produced while in Kentucky. These clocks show many clear stylistic similarities to New England examples and indicate the relationship between craftsmen from the two regions.

After his presentation, Mack was joined in conversation by Philip Zea, President and CEO at Historic Deerfield. The two shared a conversation about the importance of Kentucky furniture and the cultural exchange between Kentucky and New England craftsmen.

To hear more of Mack’s fascinating research and to discover the connection between Kentucky and New England furniture, watch the video below.

The Decorative Arts Trust hosts monthly virtual dialogues that feature scholars sharing and discussing their exciting new research with colleagues in the field. The hour-long Zoom program includes a lecture, scholar-to-scholar conversation, and Q&A with the program participants.

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The Trust’s calendar of events shows upcoming virtual and in-person programs. For updates about registration openings, sign up for our e-newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram. The Trust is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that appreciates the support of members and donors who make programming like this possible.

About The Decorative Arts Trust Bulletin

Formerly known as the "blog,” the Bulletin features new research and scholarship, travelogues, book reviews, and museum and gallery exhibitions. The Bulletin complements The Magazine of the Decorative Arts Trust, our biannual members publication.


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