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Antique Dresser – Gettysburg Antiques

Item: Antique Walnut High Chest.

Age & Condition: Circa 1790. Original Finish and Beautiful Patina. Bracket feet may not be original.

Size: 48″ wide x 24″ deep x 64.5″ tall.


Antique Dresser

Beautiful, solid walnut tall antique dresser from the Edward McPherson Estate of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Indeed, this antique dresser has become an important piece for its provenance in the Gettysburg Antiques world.

This beautiful antique dresser is believed to have been made around the year of 1790. It has a beautiful three over five drawer design, with Federal Style brass hardware. The top two brass handles have a dove and the word “Peace” inscribed in them. Interestingly, the bottom drawer pulls feature a Greek Temple design. These symbols of democracy and peace are fitting for an antique dresser created just 14 years after our National revolution. Clearly, the symbols of freedom and democracy were fresh in the Nation’s consciousness.

The hardware is marked with the initials “HJ” on the back of the bail pulls. This ‘HJ” refers to Thomas Hands and William Jenkins, who were metal workers in Birmingham, England from 1791-1803. They exported to the United States and so these handles appear to be original to this chest.

From 1776 to the early 1800s, the birth of our nation and its new Constitution informed craftsmen to imbue their works with patriotic emblems and designs.

The optimism and nationalism portrayed on this antique chest’s hardware is appropriate for an early American antique dresser. Clearly, its owner, a politician and patriot, cherished this antique chest as well. The chest belonged to Edward McPherson, a notable politician, writer and figure during the American Civil War.

Gettysburg Antiques

This piece belonged to the McPherson Estate and is important to the Gettysburg antiques world. Edward McPherson was a very important figure for Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and for our nation’s history. He represented his constituents twice in Congress. Later, Lincoln appointed him as Deputy Commissioner of Revenue in 1863. Edward McPherson also organized Company K of the Pennsylvania Reserves during the Civil War. After the war, McPherson worked to preserve the Gettysburg battlegrounds and to erect many of the monuments that can be seen there today. Additionally, he wrote and published a work on the Civil War. Indeed, Edward McPherson remained in Gettysburg following the war, until his death in 1895.

McPherson’s speeches to Congress demonstrate his passion for the nation, and his fierce devotion to President Lincoln. Of course, he very brazenly criticized his Southern contemporaries in South Carolina for leading the secession movement, which he calls “wicked and diabolical” and “hateful and despicable” . There, he warned of the collusion of those involved in the secession movement. Essentially, just four months before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, McPherson proclaimed in the marble halls of Washington, “If all peaceful accommodation be refused…collision must come, let it come and on the aggressors rest the responsibility.” (The Disunion Conspiracy, January 1, 1861)

The name McPherson also lives on in the namesake of the first battle of Gettysburg: McPherson’s Ridge. This site is just a mile west of Gettysburg center and was inherited by McPherson from his forefathers. The battle began at about 8 am on the morning of July 1st 1863 and lasted until mid morning. McPherson’s Ridge saw blood soaked fields and brutal casualties with some estimates of around 2000 men either dead or badly wounded. The Confederates greatly outnumbered the Yankees (3200 to about 7000) and the Union forces faced a terrible defeat. The Confederacy took over McPherson’s stone barn as a field hospital. Today, McPherson’s barn still stands as one of the few original structures on the Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg Antique Furniture

Thus, with these ties to such important historical moments, this antique dresser has become a valuable and beautiful artifact of Gettysburg Antiques. This antique dresser has beautiful warm patina and appears to be in original finish. Of course, the antique chest has some ageing to the texture of shellac on some drawers.

Noteworthy as well, the top two drawers on either side of the middle drawer have a secret mechanism that keeps them locked. One has to open the drawer below to access the top drawers, making it a very handy place to stash valuables.

However, some mechanical locks in the drawers have been removed. The bracket feet appear to have been replaced at a later date.

Edward McPherson’s home in Gettysburg was sold to the Gettysburg College within the last five years, as many of his remaining descendants migrated throughout the country. Many of Edward McPherson’s personal and political papers live in several vaults in the Library of Congress in DC.

These pieces in collection at Bohemians represent only a partial showcase of the McPherson estate and Gettysburg antiques. They represent a fascinating time in our nation’s history. Indeed, their survival is a testament to this nation’s long and difficult struggle to remain true to its founding principles and Constitution. This antique dresser is special for its connection to a heroic man, an intellectual and a Congressman, Edward McPherson. Of course, it is a gift for future generations, lest we forget the lessons of our difficult path as a nation.