Rediscover a Shaker Classic
A rim and box in contrasting species is an elegant eye-catcher.
by John Wilson
Open boxes, as useful as they are attractive, were not made to hold sweets for the table. Instead, they were for something that makes me wince: expectoration of chewing tobacco. These round open boxes with rims were filled with fresh wood shavings for chewing brethren and visitors, to keep the tobacco users from fouling the pristine floors.
That we hardly ever see this form except in picture books attests to the aversion that such a use fosters. My refusal to name it in the historic way is my hope to change this aversion; “round open box” will do quite nicely to describe this graceful and useful box.
I remember seeing this form with its attractive rim at Hancock Shaker Village, in Hancock, Mass., 25 years ago. And we know they were made at the Mt. Lebanon Shaker Village, in New Lebanon, N.Y., by Daniel Crossman.
The pattern of the finger lap and construction are in the oval box tradition, but the rim is different. Added for strength needed on an object intended for floor use, the rim is a pleasing finishing touch on a box without a lid or a handle. The inside end of this rim band is not feathered; rather it is fitted into the edge of the top finger curve. The band can be ended straight and feathered, or have a single narrow finger. The fastenings are brass escutcheon pins snipped and peened on the inside.
Renaming this historic form for new use in the contemporary home is a fitting way to re-introduce this Shaker classic.
Website: Visit shakerovalbox.com for all your Shaker box needs.
Article: Read a profile about John Wilson.
To Buy: Shaker Oval Box kit
To Buy: Read the author’s 2003 article on classic Shaker boxes.
In Our Store: “Shaker Oval Boxes,” a book by John Wilson.