New Discoveries in Georgia Painted Furniture 

by Ashley Callahan and Dale L. Couch



1 Sumpter Priddy, American Fancy: Exuberance in the Arts, 1790-1840 (Milwaukee: Chipstone Foundation and Milwaukee Art Museum, 2004), 47.

2 Nancy Goyne Evans, "The Christian M. Nestell Drawing Book: A Focus on the Ornamental Painter and His Craft in Early Nineteenth-Century America," in Luke Beckerdite, ed., American Furniture 1998 (Hanover, NH: Chipstone Foundation, 1998), 104-105. Kimberly King Zea provides an examination of another ornamental painter, David Morrill, in her essay "'A SonOf Whom I Can Find No Record': David Morrill, Ornamental Painter of Strafford and Norwich, Vermont," available on the Dartmouth College Library website,

3 Mary Levin Koch, "A History of the Arts in Augusta, Macon, and Columbus, Georgia, 1800-1860" (master's thesis, University of Georgia, 1983). Koch created an appendix with a list of painters, sculptors, and daguerreotypists and includes many house, sign, ornamental, and chair painters with references to published advertisements by them.

4 Georgia continues to import almost all its pigment. Nonetheless, its inhabitants have been vigilant for opportunities related to the state's geology. During the Civil War, when alternatives to imports were essential, the Daily Constitutionalist of Augusta reported: "We have been presented by Mr. J. H. Neel, of Powelton, G., with a specimen of rock and powder, said to be an admirable substitute for copper as for dye purposes. The rocks, or boulders are about the size of a hen egg, up to that of a goose egg, and are found in great abundance upon the plantation of the late Mr. Adam Jones, in Warren county. These rocks are hollow, and on being broken open are found to contain a red powder, which, on being diluted with water produces the dye, which has been freely used by negroes in the neighborhood for some years past, but did not receive the attention of the white people until very recently. The subject is worthy the attention of geologist [sic] and chemists, and if any experiments are made with it, we shall be pleased to learn the result." (Daily Constitutionalist [Augusta, GA], June 5, 1862, recorded on Vicki Betts's page of the University of Texas at Tyler website, These rocks are found throughout middle Georgia and are referred to as "paint rocks." They were the basis of some glazes on pottery and were occasionally used for crude paint. Tradition holds that they were used by American Indians. Today, Cartersville, Georgia, is home to the only year-round mining operation for the pigment ochre. See New Riverside Ochre Company, Inc., website at for more information.

5 Thos. R. R. Cobb, "Reports of Cases in Law and Equity Argued and Determined in The Supreme Court of the State of Georgia From Decatur Term, 1854, to Savannah Term, 1855, inclusive," Reporter, vol. 16 (Athens, GA: Reynolds & Bros, 1855), 563.

6 J. D. B. DeBow, The Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 (Washington, DC: Robert Armstrong Public Printer, 1853); and Francis A. Walker, The Ninth Census, vol. 1, The Statistics of the Population of the United States . . . (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1872).

7 Atlanta Historial Society, Neat Pieces: The Plain-Style Furniture of Nineteenth-Century Georgia (1983; repr. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2006).

8 Mrs. Charlton M. Theus, Savannah Furniture, 1735-1825.

Savannah [?], 1967); and Katharine Wood Gross, "The Sources of Furniture Sold in Savannah, 1789-1815" (master's thesis, University of Delaware, 1967).

9 Theus, 18.

10 Ibid., 19 and 22.

11 Ibid., 48­49, and Gross, 23.

12 Gross, 24.

13 Ibid., 61.

14 Nancy Goyne Evans, Windsor-Chair Making in America: From Craft Shop to Consumer (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2006), 151.

15 For more on this issue, see Lita Solis-Cohen, "The Winterthur Furniture Forum: What Is Original?" Maine Antique Digest (May 2006),

16 Claudia Kinmonth, Irish Country Furniture: 1700-1950 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1993).

17 John T. Kirk, Early American Furniture: How to Recognize, Evaluate, Buy, and Care for the Most Beautiful Pieces-High Style, Country, Primitive, and Rustic (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976).

18 Charles Grandison Parsons, Inside View of Slavery: or, A Tour Among the Planters (Boston: J. P. Jewett and Company; Cleveland: O. Jewett, Proctor and Worthington, 1855), 112­13.

19 Fanny Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-39 (New York: Harper, 1863), 25­26.

20 Calvert Vaux, Villas and Cottages, first ed. (1857), quoted in The Magazine Antiques (July, 1977), 135. This quote was submitted to The Magazine Antiques by John Lovell.

21 Orrin Sage Wightman and Margaret Davis Cate, Early Days of Coastal Georgia (St. Simons Island, GA: Fort Frederica Association, 1955), 139. The authors wish to acknowledge Jack Latimer for sharing this reference.

22 For the complete interview, see: George P. Rawick, ed., The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography, vol. 13, Georgia Narratives, parts 3 and 4 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Company, 1972), 320.

23 Josephine Baker Martin, ed., Life on a Liberty County Plantation: The Journal of Cornelia Jones Pond (Darien, GA: Privately printed by the Darien News, 1974), 40.

24 See Patrik Jonsson, "Backstory: Cry Over a Hue," Christian Science Monitor (May 12, 2006); and Historic T. R. R. Cobb House website,

25 The authors wish particularly to acknowledge the assistance of Rosalie Haynes, an experienced grainer, in evaluating grained surfaces for this exhibition.

26 Advertisement, Columbus Enquirer, February 23, 1858; "Handsome Painting," Atlanta Constitution, January 27, 1884; and Carlyn Gaye Crannell, "In Pursuit of Culture: A History of Art Activity in Atlanta, 1847-1926" (PhD diss., Emory University, 1981), 257.

27 Andrew Leary O'Brien, The Journal of Andrew Leary O'Brien (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1946), 59.

28 Georgia Archives, Colonial Estate Records, Inventory Book F.

29 Eighteenth-century Georgia may have had slight transference of the provincial British use of oak. The estate of Sir Patrick Houston, a prominent colonial Georgian, held "an English oak scrutiore [sic]," while the 1767 inventory of another prominent figure, Bartholomew Zoublerbuhler, lists "an old Oak desk," and many estate inventories reference wainscot. Ibid.

30 Virginia S. Wood, Live Oaking: Southern Timber for Tall Ships (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1981).

31 Elizabeth Evans Kilbourne, Savannah Georgia Newspaper Clippings, vol. 5 (Savannah, E. E. Kilbourne, 1999), 89.

32 William A. Byrne, "The Hiring of Woodson, Slave Carpenter of Savannah," Georgia Historical Quarterly 77, no. 2 (1993): 247.

33 An online search of the works of Sir Walter Scott, a common author in Georgia libraries, resulted in countless examples of oak, such as "oaken cabinet," "massive oaken table," "oaken press," "oaken settle," and "oaken-seat," "oaken beams," and "oaken stand." Henry Merrell impatiently awaited his marriage in Georgia when he alluded to the poem "The Mistletoe Bough," by Thomas Haynes Bayly. The poem includes the lines "The holly branch shone on the old oak wall . . . " and "an oak chest, that had long lain hid, Was found in the castle-they raised the lid." The bride in this poem was discovered years later in an oak chest after she had playfully hidden there. James L. Skinner III, The Autobiography of Henry Merrell: Industrial Missionary to the South (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1991), 194. For the full text of the poem, see the MediaDrome website,

34 John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 13.

35 William Dusinberre, Them Dark Days: Slavery in the American Rice Swamps (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000), 374­75.

36 For more information on the Oak Room, see Frank G. Matero, "A Rare Example of Early Nineteenth Century Trompe L'oeil Decoration: The Octagonal Reception Room at Telfair Mansion, Savannah, Georgia," Bulletin of the Association for Preservation Technology 15, no. 3. (1983): 34­38.

37 From Southern Field and Fireside, June 9, 1860, recorded on Vicki Betts's page of the University of Texas at Tyler website,

38 Capt. George W. Pepper, Personal Recollections of Sherman's Campaigns in Georgia and the Carolinas (Zanesville, OH: Hugh Dunne, 1866), 14.

39 The term "fancying" is used here in the meaning established by Sumpter Priddy in American Fancy.

40 Jessie Julia Mize, The History of Banks County, Georgia: 1858-1976 (Homer, GA: Banks Chamber of Commerce, 1977), 23.

41 An important dimension of the study of painted furniture concerns the washes that were applied to furniture._Modern collectors often refer to "Pokeberry washes" or red washes. Sometimes these washes were used on furniture to enrich a varnished finish. The desk and bookcase from the lower southern Piedmont in the collections of the Georgia Museum of Art may have been subject to this method to convert its river birch primary wood to a mahogany appearance. (Independent scholar George Williams has identified and discussed this feature of Piedmont furniture finish.)_Sometimes washes were used independently to imbue an object with color and uniformity, particularly if it was constructed of mixed woods._A rare example of a discussion of this type of finish is found in the Works Progress Administration's_Slave Narratives. Malindy Maxwell of Arkansas related, "White folks had fine chests to keep their bed clothes in. Some of them was [sic] made of oak, and pine, and cypress. They would cook walnut hulls and bark and paint them dark with the tea." Malindy Maxwell interview, Arkansas Slave Narratives, Access Genealogy: ArticleID=0028516.

42 See Pamela Wagner, Hidden Heritage: Recent Discoveries in Georgia Decorative Art, 1733-1915, exh. cat. (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 1990), Fig. 52, for one chest. At least two others are held in private collections.

43 Correspondence between private collector and Vickie Rumph; Titshaw family Bible, private collection; U.S. Census records; Social Security Death Index; and John Chestia Titshaw Moon Apperson and Ann Acker Titshaw, researchers, and Ann Acker Titshaw, compiler, The Titshaw and Cronic Families of America (Atlanta: A. A. Titshaw, 1984).

44 Written oral history letter, Vickie Elizabeth Entrekin to Ashley Callahan, September 25, 2007.

45 While the proportional system of these slabs is characteristic of the southern Piedmont, similar small sideboards have been noted in other regions, including Rhode Island, Canada, the British Isles, and the Caribbean.

46 Jean Lipman and Alice Winchester, The Flowering of American Folk Art (1776-1876), exh. cat. (New York: Viking Press in cooperation with the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1974), 232.

47 Frederick Doveton Nichols, The Early Architecture of Georgia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1957), 137. He describes another house the same way in The Architecture of Georgia (Savannah: The Beehive Press, 1976), 43. For more on Milledgeville Federal see Betty Snyder, "Milledgeville Federal-Style Architecture," 153­76, in Ashley Callahan, ed., Georgia Inside and Out: Architecture, Landscape and Decorative Arts: Proceedings from the Second Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts (Athens: Georgia Museum of Art, 2005).

48 A Georgia architectural example of this motif can be viewed in image brk009 (photograph of the gothic portico of the Eudora Plantation before its restoration, Brooks County, Georgia, ca. 1964) in the Vanishing Georgia section of the Georgia Archives website (

49 Thanks to curatorial assistant Susan Gunter for her help with this section.

50 A water table also from Oglethorpe County (Neat Pieces, Fig. 79) has similar lamb's tongue chamfering. Thanks to Levon Register for bringing this connection to our attention.

51 For more references to painters in Savannah, see Gross.

52 September 21, 1804, Kilbourne, 217.

53 Advertisement, Savannah Georgian, November 16, 1822.

54 Advertisement, Georgian (Savannah), August 18, 1831.

55 Savannah City Directory for 1867 (Savannah: N. J. Darrell & Co. Publishers, 1867) and Estill's Savannah Directory for 1874-'75 (Savannah: J. H. Estill, 1874).

56 David E. Kelley, Building Savannah (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2000), 52.

57 Estill's Savannah Directory for 1874-'75, 287.

58 Feay Shellman, Christopher P. H. Murphy 1869-1939: A Retrospective (Savannah: Telfair Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1985). Christopher P. H. Murphy's son, Christopher A. D. Murphy, also had a successful career as an artist in Savannah. Lynn Barstis Williams, Imprinting the South: Southern Printmakers and Their Images of the Region, 1920s-1940s (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2007), 78.

59 Advertisement, Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, September 23, 1826.

60 Advertisement, Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, September 29, 1827.

61 See, for example, Advertisement, Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, December 13, 1828.

62 Advertisement, Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, October 30, 1830.

63 Advertisement, Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, August 18, 1830.

64 Advertisement, Georgia Constitutionalist (Augusta), January 1, 1835.

65 James Baldwin, a house, sign, and ornamental painter in Columbus, employed "Several first rate workmen" as painters a few decades earlier. Advertisement, Columbus Enquirer, February 11, 1851.

66 Advertisement, Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, March 6, 1830.

67 Advertisement, Southern Banner (Athens), July 6, 1833.

68 Advertisement, Columbus Sentinel and Herald, June 28, 1838.

69 Another instance of itinerant craftsman involvement in painting occurs in Milledgeville in 1818, when a coach-maker and retailer, Pullen & McNellage, advertised for a journeyman painter. Advertisement, Georgia Journal (Milledgeville), May 19, 1818.

70 Koch, 164; and advertisement, Macon Georgia Telegraph, April 14, 1836.

71 Advertisement, Macon Georgia Telegraph, March 30, 1837.

72 Koch, 164.

73 Posting by Dot Fowler, Rea's great-granddaughter, on, July 23, 2002. He may have spent time in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1850 according to another posting, by Mary Sue Bynum, on March 10, 2000. Bynum also notes that he did portraiture (March 9, 2000).

74 For more on the firm see Mabel M. Swan, "The Johnstons and the Reas-Japanners," Antiques 43, no. 5 (May 1943): 211­13. Account books for Daniel Rea & Son are in the collection of Baker Library at Harvard University.

75 Koch, 26; and advertisement, Macon Georgia Telegraph, November 2, 1841.

76 Koch, 157.

77 Ibid, 153.

78 Advertisement, Georgia Telegraph (Macon), March 24, 1846.

79 Koch, 149.

80 Advertisement, Georgia Messenger (Macon), December 21, 1825.

81 Advertisement, Macon Georgia Telegraph, March 19, 1839.

82 Advertisement, Macon Georgia Telegraph, April 14, 1836; and advertisement, Macon Georgia Telegraph, January 14, 1836.

83 See, for example, advertisement, Southern Banner (Athens), September 22, 1846.

84 "Calvin W. Parr House," Carl Vinson Institute of Government, University of Georgia,

85 Advertisement, Southern Watchman (Athens), October 28, 1879.

86 In 1883, the Atlanta Constitution reported that ten brothers were involved in the business. "Athens, Georgia," Atlanta Constitution, August 26, 1883.

87 Charles Morton Strahan, Clarke County, Ga. and the City of Athens (Athens: C. P. Byrd, Printer, 1893), 84.

88 "Calvin W. Parr House."

89 Advertisement, Columbus Enquirer, December 13, 1853.

90 Advertisement, Columbus Enquirer, May 12, 1841.

91 Advertisement, Columbus Enquirer, February 23, 1858.

92 Crannell, 253.

93 Advertisement, Daily Constitution (Atlanta), December 12, 1877.

94 Georgia Temperance Crusader, July 1, 1859; and National American, March 24, 1859, quoted in Crannell, 253.

95 Atlanta Constitution, October 21, 1871, quoted in Crannell, 253­54. The Southern Life Insurance Company in 1870 sought to "encourage artists and designers" by offering a fifty dollar premium for the "finest specimen of ornamental sign painting on plate glass." Untitled, Atlanta Constitution, September 13, 1870.

96 "Coeur De Lion Commandery," Atlanta Constitution, April 15, 1873.

97 "Destructive Fire," Atlanta Constitution, March 18, 1875.

98 "Atlanta. The 'Gate City' Between the West and South . . . ," Atlanta Constitution, September 14, 1873.

99 Untitled, Atlanta Constitution, October 27, 1869. Oliver was planning to work next on "the interior of [banker John H.] James' magnificent residence on Peachtree street." Peck, DeSaulles, & Co.'s new location was in a building on Whitehall Street owned by James. Advertisement, Atlanta Constitution, October 9, 1869.

100 Advertisement, Atlanta Constitution, July 26, 1873.

101 Advertisement, Atlanta Constitution, September 9, 1873.

102 Advertisement, Constitution (Atlanta), April 26, 1876.

103 "To the Public," Atlanta Constitution, May 31, 1885. The Atlanta Constitution recognized him "As the finest painter in his line" the previous year. "Handsome Painting," Atlanta Constitution, January 27, 1884.

104 "Handsome Painting."

105 Crannell, 257.

106 "Married Many Times," Atlanta Constitution, June 5, 1885; and "Pannell Still at Large," Atlanta Constitution, June 7, 1885.

107 Advertisement, Dublin Post, August 8, 1878.

108 "The Joneses' New Store," Dublin Post, December 11, 1878; and "Local Affairs," Dublin Post, November 3, 1880. He later sold wallpaper through Jones Bros. "Local Affairs," Dublin Post, September 17, 1879. His work at Peacock's took a couple of weeks to complete. "Local Affairs," Dublin Post, October 6, 1880; and "Local Affairs," Dublin Post, October 20, 1880.

109 "Local Affairs," Dublin Post, April 9, 1879; and "Local Affairs," Dublin Post, April 16, 1879.

110 December 24, 1884 entry in Tad Evans, Laurens County, Georgia Newspaper Clippings (Savannah: T. Evans, 2002), 164.

About the authors

Ashley Callahan is curator, Henry D. Green Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts, Georgia Museum of Art and Dale L. Couch is senior archivist and historical research advisor, Georgia Archives. Please view Ashley Callahan's biography at the Georgia Museum of Art web site.


About the exhibition

New Discoveries in Georgia Painted Furniture is on exhibit at the Georgia Museum of Art January 26 - April 27, 2008. Co curators for the exhibition are Ashley Callahan, curator, Henry D. Green Center for the Study of the Decorative Arts, Georgia Museum of Art and Dale L. Couch, senior archivist and historical research advisor, Georgia Archives, with assistance from Rosalie Haynes, ornamental painter.

Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the W. Newton Morris Charitable Foundation, the Friends of the Museum, and the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The Council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations, and corporations provide additional support through their gifts to the Arch Foundation and the University of Georgia Foundation.


Editor's note:

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Hillary Brown, Editor, Georgia Museum of Art for her help concerning permissions for reprinting the above brochure essay.

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