A great question about a southern iconic piece of furniture.
Question: Mr. Sampson, I am new at sending digital pictures, so this email is an explanation of the pictures to follow (I hope). The pictures are of a "hutch" that was in the first home my husband and I purchased (1966). The home was in Somerset, KY, and the house was sold with some furniture included in the sale. The "hutch" was one of the pieces we were fortunate to get. The owner of the house said that the markings you will see in one of the pictures was the personal marking put his work by a cabinet maker of Pulaski County many generations ago. I welcome any information you could give me about this hutch. / I've never had it refinished. Isn't that amazing?
Answer: What a sweet piece you have. Congratulations! You have a Jackson Press and not a “hutch.” A hutch is usually an open cupboard affair. Really, the proper name for this, is simply, a press or a cupboard. On one knows where the name Jackson came from. Perhaps, it was from the Andrew Jackson's home the Hermitage in Tennessee. Maybe, there was one in his home and the someone just said, “That looks like a cabinet down there in Jackson's house.” We may never know where this phrase came from. Well, the name stuck, and now its part of the southern antique vernacular. Either way you have a beautiful walnut wood press.
I love the high style leg / foot on this piece. The addition of the pressed decoration on the stiles was very interesting, a detail, I've not seen before. Its more of a country piece and is a blend of the Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles. I enjoyed doing the research on this. I looked through the cabinet makers listings in Mrs. Edna Talbott Whitley's book “ A Checklist of Kentucky Cabinetmakers From 1775 – 1859. I found that there were several cabinetmakers from Pulaski County. However, they were operating, almost exclusively, in 1859. I think that you're press is a tad earlier. Could it be one of them? Then I decided to concentrate on the pressed decoration. I found no other examples, anywhere.
So, its kind of a mystery. Is it from Pulaski County? I tend, for some reason, to side with my gut instincts and say that its likely from Lincoln or Boyle County. Still, all counties are very close in location and styles did flow back and forth over county lines. It is well made, by an unknown cabinetmaker, certainly not a carpenter. Ahhh, this is one of those things that makes me sad. The state of Kentucky needs and deserves to have so much more scholarship done, in relation to, its furniture culture. I feel that there are possibly, other examples, that are out there,waiting, to be identified to a certain maker and region.
Furniture questions are a tricky wicket. Even with nice photos, its hard to tell if the cornice is original or if the doors have been re-hung or if the feet have been altered. Everything looks right to me and I'll base my opinions, as though, it is pure. One thing I can tell you, at some time, it was refinished. This is just not an old, grubby 1840's finish. Don't feel bad. More than likely, it was refinished, years and years, before you got it. This was a popular thing to do, as far back as the 1940's – 1950's. It will affect the value to a degree. I say that your handsome, walnut wood press, with a Kentucky provenance, in good condition, will be priced in a retail store for about $3,000 - $3,500. This amount could go up, if we could determine who and where it was made. Be sure you write down any and all details about it, that you can remember. Thank you for sharing it with us.