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Furniture (T) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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TABLES: (Latin, tabula, a board).

Tables in early times in England were called "bordes," literally a plank or board. They were placed on trestles or frames when in use and taken apart and placed out of the way after being used. (See Trestle Tables, below.) It was not until late in the 16th century that "joined" and "framed" tables became common. One early form of these was the so-called Drawing Table (q.v.).

The rectangular tables of the Jacobean period had heavy legs, turned in vase or baluster forms with stretchers at the bottom and skirting beneath the top. There was considerable overhang to the top. From that time, the development in tables was rapid and in great variety. Billiard Tables. A French invention of the 14th century. In use in England in the 16th century and from that time onward. Billiard-table-making was usually a branch by itself, although sometimes done by regular cabinet-makers.

Butterfly Tables. A small table with turned legs and stretchers, with drop leaves which are held up by swinging brackets, with the outer edge curved like a butterfly wing. They were made with square, oval and rectangular tops. Round tops are rare. The butterfly table is essentially American, perhaps with Connecticut origin, and made its appearance about 1670. The type was unknown in England.

Card Tables. Card tables were an innovation of the late 17th century, and made with a double top of same size and shape, hinged in the center. They were at first circular in form, succeeded by the square or rectangular top. At first walnut was chiefly used for these tables, followed by mahogany. Cabriole legs were common and many of these tables were elaborately carved. Some were made with cylindrical corners to hold candlesticks, and wells for counters and money were provided. When opened for use, the leaf is supported by one of the legs, which swings out for the purpose. Later in the Empire period, the top swiveled in the middle and swung around in such a manner that the top of the table base supplied the support.

Chair Tables. See CHAIRS, Table. Console Tables.

Console and pier tables of the 18th century were similar to side and card tables, except that they were made without the double top, and sometimes, when semi-circular in form, they were without rear legs. Console tables were designed to be placed against the wall and they were often fitted with marble tops, although many were painted or richly inlaid. Pier tables were usually placed between the windows of a room. Many were of satinwood.

Credence Table. The Credence table was usually a small stand placed near the altar of a church, on which remained the bread and wine until consecration. The name was given also to a table and cupboard combination for domestic use and used as a serving table. See CREDENCE.

Dining Table. The table most commonly used in the 18th century as a dining table, was of the drop-leaf type, with cabriole or square legs, two of which were hinged to pull out to support the leaves when open. Later, sectional dining tables, which could be fastened together, made by Hepplewhite with square legs, and by Sheraton with round reeded legs, were used by those who did much entertaining. The extension or telescopic form of dining table was invented by Richard Gillow in 1800. The pedestal dining table was a favorite design of Duncan Phyfe and was made so that it might be extended with extra leaves.

Dish-Top Tables. A round tripod tiptable with a rim or gallery around the edge of the top to keep the dishes from falling off. This is one of Chippendale's designs, similar to the Pie-Crust Tables (q.v.).

Dough Table. An early form of table for storing flour and dough. The top served as a dough board. These tables were oblong in shape and from three to five feet long. Turned legs which spread outward supported the bin at each corner, which was made with sloping sides. The top lifted off, which gave access to the bin.

Draw or Drawing Tables. One of the earliest tables of the Tudor period,made of oak with heavy plank top and four bulbous legs connected with a square stretcher at the bottom. Extended by means of two shelves sliding under the central top, but so arranged that, drawn out, the upper top falls into their place, thus forming a level surface. Its principal was long retained and Sheraton, as late as the beginning of the 19th century, recommended its use for certain purposes. Another form of table in use in early days was made with a leaf, hinged to fold on top or beneath the table, and supported by wooden braces when in use,-the forerunner of the drop-leaf table.

Dressing Tables. About the middle of the 18th century a table was required for the complicated toilet apparatus of the day, and the result was a dressing chest on four tapered legs, with a top fitted sometimes with a disappearing mirror, or with a fixed mirror, and supplied with various small drawers and compartments. Before that time the lowboy (q.v. ) was in general use for a dressing table.

Extension Table. See Dining Table.

Gate-Legged Tables. Also, "hundredleg" tables, although the number of the legs never exceeds twelve. This table dates from the Jacobean period and it was the first table to have the drop-leaf. It was made, usually, of oak and the early tables had spiral twisted legs, of which there were usually six stationary upon the middle section of the table and one or two on each side which swung out to hold up the drop-leaves. Tops were square, round, oblong or oval. In this country, maple was used mainly in New England; walnut was preferred south of New York. The gate-legged table held its popularity from about the middle of the 17th century through the Queen Anne period and during the long period of its history it had as great a vogue as the styles of Chippendale chairs at a later date. The gate-legged table is always regarded with veneration by collectors. Early English oak tables with spiral twisted legs are very rare.

Kidney Tables. A design of Sheraton, so-called because it resembles a kidney in form. The kidney desk table with tiers of drawers on each side sprang from the same design.

Library Tables. Large library tables of pedestal form with drawers came into use in England about 1725, although there are examples of earlier date. Smaller tables of the same type were in use by ladies for correspondence and for dressing tables also.

Mixing Tables. A table with compartments for bottles and the other necessaries for making punch, which often accompanied the sideboard in the dining room in England, and also over here.

Pembroke Tables. A small table with drop-leaves, with or without a drawer, used as a breakfast table, introduced about the middle of the 18th century. Pie-Crust Tables. One of the dish-top tripod tip-tables with a scalloped rim. It preceded the carved or fretted gallery in the Chippendale style. With its carved supporting column, carved knees of the tripod and claw-and-ball foot, the pie-crust table is much sought after by collectors.

Pier Tables. See Console Tables. Refectory Tables. The old tables such as were used in monasteries. They were of heavy construction, rather narrow, with four or six stout turned legs, a heavy stretcher around the base, and a carved apron below the top. They were commonly used in England up to the time of the gate-legged table during the Cromwellian period.

Sewing Tables. See Work Tables.

Side Tables. In no kind of furniture is there greater variety of treatment than in the side table dating from the first half of the 18th century. In the hands of William Kent and other architect-designers of furniture, such tables in England assumed a monumental character. They remained in use until superseded by the sideboard.

Sideboard Tables. These tables were in use before the regular sideboard took their place. They were oblong in shape and made oftentimes of a length to fit into a recess in the room. At first without drawers, these were subsequently added. Cabriole legs with claw-andball feet were usual and the top was sometimes of marble instead of wood.

Sofa Tables. Oblong tables with small drop-leaf at each end and with one or two drawers. The end supports were generally connected with a stretcher.

Sunk-Top Tables. Another name for Dish-Top Tables (q.v.). Tavern Tables. An 18th-century table commonly used in taverns. The top was either rectangular or oval, made of maple or of pine; the turned legs and stretchers were of maple. Some of the later tables were made with cabriole legs and without stretchers.

Tea Tables. Tea tables were first mentioned early in the 18th century. They were made with a plain top either round, oval, square or octagonal, tripod legs with snake or claw-and-ball foot, and were usually lower than other tables. In common with other tripod tip-tables, these tables were also made with a secondary platform beneath the top, resting on a collar around the central column, with four small uprights at the corners attached to the top, which enabled one to revolve the top without moving the table. This contrivance was given the name of "bird-cage." It is a desirable feature in any tripod table.

Toilet Tables. See Dressing Tables. Trestle Tables. The "borde," resting on trestles at each end, is the oldest form of table known. They were simple in design and very strong. The top was usually of a soft wood, the trestles of oak. Much used in the 15th and 16th centuries in England, and a similar table was made and used in this country in the early period f settlement. The stretcher between the trestles was held firmly by keyed mortise and tenon joints. They were supplanted by the solid table about the middle of the 16th century. Windsor Tables. In the 18th century, tables with four raking legs and candle stands with three legs, with the familiar Windsor turnings, were made in New England and in Pennsylvania. They are now very rare.

Wine Tables. A table fitted with revolving top and with recesses turned out to a slight depth for glasses to stand in. They were made last half 18th century, usually of mahogany. Examples are now quite rare.

Work Tables. Small tables, late 18th century, with the top arranged to lift, disclosing a cabinet with compartments for sewing materials. They were also made with folding flaps to allow for their use as a writing table or for cards or chess. Another design has drawers, often fitted with a frame beneath, to which is attached a silk or velvet bag. The frame pulls out like a drawer, exposing the open top of the bag. Those of Sheraton design are of superior excellence. The so-called Martha Washington table is probably an American innovation on the English Work tables.

TABOURET: An ornamental cushioned stool.

TALLBOY: An English name for highboy (q.v.).

TALL-CASE CLOCKS: See CLOCKS, Grandfather's.

TAMBOUR FRONT: This consisted of small strips of wood pasted on heavy cloth, so as to be flexible. Hepplewhite is given credit for the invention. It was the forerunner, in a delicate and attractive fashion, of the modern roll-top desk.


TEA CADDIES: These are relics of the times when tea was a luxury and expensive, and the early term was chest. Called caddy last part of 18th century. They were made frequently of choice woods with inlay or other decoration, and fitted with a lock. In shape, they were square, oblong or hexagonal. Inside there were usually two pewter containers, called canisters, for the tea, one for the black tea, the other for the green. Tea caddies were also made of porcelain and of silver.

TEA POY: A small low table with three legs and a receptacle beneath, in use middle of 18th century, sometimes referred to as a tea chest on legs.


TEAK WOOD: Dark brown in color and obtained in India. It is easily worked and was in use in England to some extent in the 18th century, but is little used now.

TENON: The end of a timber cut for inserting in a mortise.

TESTER: (French, Testiere) The frame for holding the canopy of a high-post bedstead.

THROWING: Medieval term forturning. "Thrown" chairs mean turned chairs. Chairs of that type are of 16th-century origin in design.


TOP RAIL: The top member of a chair back. It is made in a variety of forms; straight, curved, serpentine, pillow, etc.

TORCFIERE: A candle stand (q.v.).

TOWEL HORSES: Wooden frames mounted on feet with two or more cross bars, in use about middle of 18th century and onward following the introduction of the specially designed wash stands (q.v.) of the period.

TRAYS: Few trays survive dating from before the middle of the 18th century, but from that time a considerable number are found designed in successive styles for the service of the dinner table and for tea equipage. Some of these were mounted on legs or folding stands. Wooden trays were gradually superseded by those of other materials, papiermache, silver or japanned ware.

TRENCHERS: (French, Thranche, meaning slice) Wooden platters used in the 16th and 17th centuries. The name was also given to pewter plates.

TREEN WARE: Name given in England to early wooden household utensils, commonly made of sycamore, such as bowls, trenchers, etc. They were also made and used in this country during Colonial times. They preceded pewter, as pewter preceded silver and china, for table use.

TRESTLE: An early heavy frame support for tables, with the termination extending in opposite directions so as to form a two-way foot.

TRIPOD: A support with three feet. Stools of that kind were in use from early times but tripod forms for tables, stands, etc., did not become general until the 18th century.

TRUCKLE BED: Also called Trundle. See BEDS, Truckle.

TUDOR PERIOD: (1485-I558) This was truly the "Age of Oak." English oak cut from the heart of the tree was the principal wood at that time both for furniture and for buildings, although some of the other native woods were used to some extent. Strength and solidity were characteristics of the period, and furniture of great magnificence was made to furnish the important houses in England. Nearly all of that furniture was lost during the Civil War of the 17th century. There was a very limited amount of variety in furniture. The refectory table, chests, cupboards, bedsteads, stools, an occasional wainscot chair comprise the principal items. The so-called bulbous leg is to be found on tables, bedsteads and other pieces, and much carving was done on all kinds of furniture. The Tudor rose and linen-fold paneling are characteristic of this period. The influence of the Renaissance was felt in England during the latter part of the period, resulting in more luxurious surroundings in the homes of the wealthier class. Tudor furniture retains the Gothic structure but adds much Renaissance carving and some inlay.

TULIP WOOD: A wood obtained in the West Indies with stripes of pinkish color and used for inlaying and veneering. In this country it is often called "white wood."


TURNINGS: Pieces of wood that have been turned on a lathe. The vase and spiral turnings of the 17th century were followed by the inverted cup, the bell and the trumpet turnings. Turned wood was used in great variety on all kinds of furniture from the 16th to 18th centuries. Medieval chairs were often made entirely of turned members and known as " thrown" chairs.

TURNIP FOOT: A truncated ball or bun foot (q.v.).