Art

Many 18th century paints have faded, making them appear dull and muted. In fact, customers at the time had a wide range of paints available in many bright colors. The words painted on top of this chest were added, nor for decoration, but to ensure its contents were taken care of. The panels added to the base of the chest were carved using a decorative molding plane, a simple decoration for an otherwise plain piece of furniture.

Manufacture

The body of this chest was joined using dovetails. Interlocking cuts in the wood were made at the corners which fit together perfectly securing the body of the chest without nails. The bottom was then nailed in place and hinges were added to attach the lid. Overall the construction is simple and would have involved saws, planes, chisels, hammers, and nails. The iron handles to carry it were likely added later as the trunk was pressed into military use.

Function

Chests like these were placed in homes to store a variety of objects. The lock on the front indicates that whatever this held had value, such as clothing, blankets, or other textiles. Fabric represented a major investment and in the density of a military camp pieces of clothing were bought, sold, and stolen by nefarious soldiers and civilians.

Culture

Captain Benjamin Ledyard who owned this appears to have adapted his civilian chest into a campaign trunk. The molded panels around the base of the chest only cover three sides, indicating that the back was intended to be placed against a wall or other surface and therefore did not need extra decoration. He appears to have added the handles to the side, and his name, rank, and regiment to the top when he commanded a company of the 1st New York Regiment in 1775. He did not accompany the rest of the unit in the invasion of Canada, but remained behind in New York City to recruit new soldiers.