Archaeological Discovery Leads to Removal of Museum Piece

An 18th-century mahogany bonnet-top highboy has long been the centerpiece of the furniture collection of the Snoot Museum in East Upscale, Massachusetts. The piece was built in 1769 and signed by local cabinetmaker Josiah Gale. It had been in continuous possession of a local family until being donated to the museum in 1923 on the recommendation of Wallace Nutting. The museum announced last week that the piece will be discarded, due to the recent discovery of Gale’s workshop.

Gale’s shop was located in the small town near Boston, on the lower level of a building with the only entrance on the side of the structure. The ground sloped from the front of the building to the rear, and the entrance to the shop was below the level of the street at the front. Gale died in 1774 of a fit of apoplexy, and before his family could come from England to settle his estate, another building was erected on the vacant lot next door that directly abutted the building that housed Gale’s workshop and covered the entrance. Within a year, the American revolution broke out, and Gale and his business were forgotten.

The adjoining building was destroyed in a fire last winter, and construction workers clearing the site discovered the hidden entrance. What they found behind the ancient door was an intact shop complete with a work in progress, stacks of raw material, a workbench and period woodworking tools. “The man literally left this place at the end of a workday, locked the door and never returned” said Uriah Hai, director of the museum. “What we found however, has led us to re-evaluate the piece in our collection” Hai continued, “and to keep our conscience clear, we need to remove it as soon as possible.”

Head curator Eustice Mightee described what was found when the shop was first examined. “Frankly, the place was a mess. Tools and shavings were everywhere, parts of furniture pieces weren’t stacked neatly, and we couldn’t even find a broom. Moreover, there weren’t enough tools, and those that we did find were of the inexpensive garden variety.” Among the disturbing finds were the condition of the benchtop, where researchers found a hollow measuring .006” toward the back of the right hand side. In addition, three chisels were found in need of sharpening. “Clearly the man was a complete slob, unintelligent, immoral and quite likely overweight and out of shape. As such he couldn’t possibly have produced a piece of museum quality furniture” stated director Hai. Both Hai and Mightee confirmed that the decision to remove the piece from the museum’s collection was based on the deplorable condition of the shop, not on the quality of the highboy.

“Back in the 1920s when we acquired this piece we didn’t have the research tools available to us today,” said Mightee. “At the time, all the curators had to go on was the appearance of the finished piece of furniture, the overall proportions, the fit and finish of the joinery, the detail in the carvings. It was well-made, in fine condition and had its original finish, but thanks to the internet, we now know that Josiah Gale was not a competent furniture maker and as such we have no choice but to remove this piece from the museum. Part of our mission is educational, and we have to think of the influence something like this could have on the hundreds of school children who are forced to visit us every year. One of them might get the idea that good furniture could be made with a minimal amount of tools in an untidy shop. We shudder at the consequences of the possibility of that happening.”

The museum has no plans to sell the piece, in spite of the fact that similar pieces have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction. “We’re kicking that piece of junk to the curb and sending it to the dump, so that no one else will perpetuate our unfortunate error. We believe it’s our moral responsibility based on what we’ve read from the experts online” stated Hai. “We owe it to the children.”

–Robert W. Lang

37 thoughts on “Archaeological Discovery Leads to Removal of Museum Piece

  1. rorynidaho

    I have to confess to missing the [sic] humor at first. I was moving under quite a head of steam to make my opinions known about the ignorant-snobbish-slavishly proper, nose-up museumites that were so repulsively stupid as to follow such logic. Alas, I thought a re-read was in order first.

    I am disabled. Most of my “work” is done in my mind anymore, and cleaning up after some period of work has shifted into sweeping up at the beginning of some such period (can’t call a few minutes to hours a “day,” now can I?).
    Fine joke! Got my blood a boiling.

  2. donwilliams

    Bob

    This one goes in the Hall of Fame with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Brilliant, just brilliant. If you ever compile a volume of woodworking satire I will buy a copy for myself and several copies for friends.

    Don

  3. gvancise

    I read this Saturday morning and was under such conviction that spent Saturday cleaning my shop, doing sit-ups, sharpening my chisels, making a bow saw (so I’d have at least one more tool), and making sure my work area was presentable should I meet an early demise. On Sunday I went to church (okay, I’m the pastor and have to go) but I almost went to confession when I realized — “I’m not even Catholic!”

    I passed it along to my father, and he made plans to clean his shop, too.

    VERY well done. THANKS!

  4. powermil

    OK, OK, you had my ire up for a moment, Happy early April 1.

    I was preparing a picture of my one-car garage stuffed with wood and tools and the latest piece of furniture I finished (yesterday). Of course there would have been a picture of my smiling fat-butt holding a 4×4 wood-block-and-tree-limb mallet, standing beside my cheap Chinese tablesaw and thickness planer, and my brand new Laguna 14″ bandsaw in the background (just for validation)…

  5. Justin Tyson

    Well crap. This was the best blog post I’ll read all week, and it’s only Monday morning. That means it’s all downhill from here!

    Great work, Bob. I feel a certain kinship with Josiah Gale.

  6. davey.leslie@gmail.com

    Well done. The only improvement to this article I could suggest would be the inclusion of a rick roll link.

    I’m a huge (and fat!) fan of both Chris Schwarz and Bob Lang and have enjoyed their good natured sparring that now and then appears online. Although, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed when I realized that this was “only” satire and not an actual find. The heart of a wide eyed ten-year old still beats in the chest of this 53-year old curmudgeon.

  7. THEDUDE

    and that’s what i get for not thinking it was a joke however the fat and unfit was not funny in any way that is the kind of thing that gets people fired racist and discrimination even in fun is in poor taste and I really liked you for years this has left a bad taste in my mouth in fact I am pissed off about this the fat part was in the worst taste bob I thought better of you

  8. THEDUDE

    I don’t think that being out of shape or fat has ever stopped me from making fine works with garden variety tools. I fear this rush to judgment may have been a bad move on the museums part. Who knows if this guys apprentice didn’t loot this shop before it was closed in this type of hind site and re writing history makes me sick. The attack on the guys weight and supposedly knowing his conditioning state is pure conjecture and wrong by the standards set in today’s society. it’s offensiveto call some inferior because they may have been fat when over half the population is over weight today. and it seems to effect the quality of work produced in any way. I fear this removal of as fine piece signed by the maker and then removed on conjecture is wrong I want the piece saved for what it is a wonderful piece. I would be glad to have it placed in my local historical society museum for what it is a great piece of furniture. This is an outrage, and likely a miscarriage of justice. Lance Granum The Dude

  9. Bear

    You had me there for a while….
    By the way, some best friends are overweight, immoral, slobs, with garden variety tools and dull chisels and they turn out some amazing work. Thanks

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