Handcrafted 18th Century American Furniture

Foreword

I was first introduced to Eldred Wheeler furniture about fifteen years ago. My wife, Karel, and I were called to a home in Marshfield, Massachusetts to look at antiques that the owner and his wife were considering selling through one of our auctions. He had decided to sell his business, home and furnishings, and retire to Florida. I remembered he and his wife had attended many of our auctions over the years and purchased several early American antiques, so naturally I was very interested to see what they had to sell.

 

He and his wife had decided to sell everything, so they volunteered to lead us on a tour of their 18th century home. First, we walked into the kitchen where I noticed an early 19th century pine step-back cupboard filled with wonderful decorated stoneware, redware and yelloware. Next, we walked into the dining room where there was a wonderful stretcher-base dining table. The owner asked if I could sell it, noting that it wasn’t old and he had purchased it new some years earlier for around $600 from a South Shore furniture maker in Hanson named Eldred Wheeler. He explained that they made very fine American-style reproduction furniture, and that this table once had been a part of their line but was now discontinued. We hadn’t had much experience selling newer pieces; however, the table had a great look, so we agreed that we would give it a shot. That decided, we continued on our tour, noting a number of additional antique pieces that we felt would fare well at our upcoming mid-summer auction.

 

As the auction approached, we began running a series of pre-auction notices in a variety of antique-related publications. We described the stretcher-base dining table as a “custom-made 18th century-style stretcher-base dining table by Eldred Wheeler.” We also mentioned it was signed by the firm inside the drawer. We had a lot of interest in the table, and it brought $1400 a few months later at the auction. Needless to say, everyone was pleased!

 

Since that time, we have sold many pieces of Eldred Wheeler furniture. They always seem to hold their value, and as noted above, sometimes bring more than their owners originally paid. I feel part of the reason for this is that the company holds to traditional Queen Anne, Chippendale, and Hepplewhite forms. Additional factors, which I believe also contribute to their lasting value, include the care with which each piece is constructed, the use of native woods, such as cherry, maple, figured maple, and pine, and the furniture’s beautiful finish.

 
With this Collector’s Guide that Emmett Eldred has carefully crafted (much like Eldred Wheeler pieces), furniture collectors, now and in the future, will have a great source for not only identifying and authenticating Eldred Wheeler furniture, but also for discerning the classic styles of furniture of the 18th and 19th century handmade now in the 21st century.

 

 

Willis Henry
Willis Henry Auctions, Inc.
Marshfield, Massachusetts