Federal Work Table

The highly figured rectangular top with reeded edge above a conforming case with two drawers and a candle slide on the proper left side, with baluster turned legs, a medial shelf and vase-form feet terminating in brass cup casters.  A 1928 paper label affixed to the interior bottom drawer reads: "Sewing table, old, rare, (possibly by Duncan Phyfe)/ This table belonged to Hannah Caldwell (Mrs. James R. Smith) and used in her home in Pearl St., New York (about 1790)."  " to MRP from EDP 1928 (bgt from BRP $50)/ To---Kristi Aresvish (Erasmus?) Petreus (Petraeus?) 1928"


H: 28¾"  W: 19"   D: 14½"


Condition: Very Good: Brass knobs are later replacements, shelf is an old replacement, brass casters have been restored to their original lacquered appearance, re-polished with shellac in the manner of the period.


This sophisticated and beautiful table relates to three pictured in Nancy McClelland's Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency (New York, 1939), p. 104, pl. 91,  p.126, pl. 110 and p. 155, pl. 136.  Plate 110, an occasional table with three drawers, a shelf and ovolo corners, descended in the family of Eliza Phyfe Vail (1801-1890), Phyfe's second daughter.[1] 

Biographical note in the Biographical Register of Saint Andrew's Society of the State of New York, Volume 1, by William MacBean. Published in 1922.

JAMES R. SMITH, of Kirkcudbright and New York

"James Smith was born in Scotland in the year 1757. He probably came to New York about 1785, no reference of an earlier date having been found. In that year he subscribed towards the Saint Andrew's Hall Fund. He may have been the James Smith of the firm of Robertson, Smith & Co. which dissolved July 25, 1788. His name appears in the directory of 1789 for the first time and at 15 Queen Street, engaged in the dry goods business, where he remained until 1794, his address then becoming 211 Pearl Street, probably the same location.

On October 6, 1790, he notified the public that he intended to assume "R" as middle initial in order to distinguish him from others. If "R" meant anything it meant Robertson in compliment to Alexander Robertson who had given his son Robert the middle name of Smith, altho' in the Old Merchants of New York it is said that it meant red after his complexion. The Robertsons were known as Rua, Roy or Red. This addition to his name may have been taken in deference to the wishes of his bride, Hannah Caldwell, [1767-1825] daughter of the Rev. James Caldwell, of Elizabethtown, N. J., of Revolutionary fame, whom he married at Philadelphia, in October, 1790.

In 1791 he was a Captain in the 4th Regiment of New York Militia. For many years he was located at 211 Pearl Street. In 1796 he took Albert Wyckoff into partnership, and this connection continued up to April 2, 1804, when it was dissolved, Wyckoff forming a new partnership with Robert Smith Robertson, our Treasurer's son. In 1811 Smith removed to 53 Broadway, but whether he occupied this for business purposes as well as residence has not been determined. He had a country seat, which he named "Walnut Hill," on the Orange Road near Newark, and which in his will he designates his homestead.

He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, owned two shares in the Tontine Coffee House, and subscribed for two shares of Bank of New York stock. In his will he left lands in Ulster County, New York, to the Scotch Presbyterian Church in Cedar Street, part of which was to establish a fund for the benefit of the poorer members of the church and to be known as the "Lord's Fund for His Poor People." The income of this fund was to be laid out in fuel and provisions for the poor. He also left a similar bequest to the Theological Seminary of the Associate Reformed Church for the education and maintenance of poor and pious youths.

Mr. Smith died June 4th, 1817, in his 61st year. His widow married secondly the Rev. Dr. John R. B. Rodgers and died February 20th, 1825. Mr. Smith was survived by his son James, his daughters, Elizabeth, Janet and Hannah and a sister Margaret in Scotland, wife of James Dyson. His brother Dunbar Smith had predeceased him."

John R. B. Rogers was the son of Elizabeth Bayard (1738-1763).


  • James Smith's baptism is recorded in Kirkcudbight OPR's, 22nd August 1756, son of Robert Smith, blacksmith, and Janet McNaught, Kirkcudbright.
  • There is a gravestone commemorating the family in the old St Cuthbert's Churchyard, Kirkcudbright on which mention is made of James.
  • It seems most likely the 'R' in his name was from his father's Christian name.
  • According to his will his children were Jeanet (then married to John X. Clarke), Hannah (married to Matthew St. Clair Clarke, one of the executors), Elizabeth (a minor, unmarried), and James (a minor, unmarried). Will.
  • Rev James Caldwell - "James Caldwell, born in Charlotte Co., Va., April, 1734; graduated at Princeton,1759; ordained 1762. After serving" as chaplain in the "army of the Revolution, and acting as Commissary to the troops in New Jersey, he was killed by a shot from a sentinel, at Elizabethtown Point, N. J., Nov. 24, 1781. Hannah (Ogden), his wife, was killed at Connecticut Farms, by a shot from a British officer, June 25 1780."

Matthew St. Clair Clarke (1790 Greencastle, Franklin County, Pennsylvania - May 6, 1852 Washington, D.C.) was an American journalist, book author and politician. He was for seven terms Clerk of the United States House of Representatives.




[1] Peter M. Kenny and Michael K. Brown, Duncan Phyfe: Cabinetmaker in New York (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011), p.285, 2.17.

Dealer Carswell Rush Berlin, Inc.
Date: c. 1810
Origin New York City
Artist/Maker unknown
Measurements H: 28" W: 19" D: 14"
Inventory View Dealer's Inventory
Website http://www.american-antiques.net
Price $7,900
Contact Carswell R. Berlin, 646-645-0404 or  CarswellBerlin@msn.com

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