John Cogswell (American, 1738–1818)

Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts


246.38 x 112.39 x 59.69 cm (97 x 44 1/4 x 23 1/2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Mahogany, white pine

On View

Carolyn A. and Peter S. Lynch Gallery (Gallery 132)




Case furniture and boxes

Signed and dated on the top of its lower case, this imposing chest represents the finest furniture made in Boston toward the end of the American Revolution. Its bombé (swelled base) form and claw-and-ball feet are conservative, reflecting the Rococo style that had been popular in America since the 1750s. Its restrained line and refined carving are more closely aligned with the Neoclassical style, which would dominate taste after the war. According to family tradition, Cogswell, one of Boston’s leading cabinetmakers, made this piece for John Derby, the son of Elias Hasket Derby, for use in his room at Harvard College.


Signed on top of lower section "Made by John / Cogswell in middle street / Boston 1782"; Signed on inside surface of back board of lower case: "J. Cogswel"


By tradition, made for John Derby (Elias Hasket Derby's grandson) of Salem when he went to Harvard College; by descent in the family until its purchase by the Museum in 1973.

Credit Line

William Francis Warden Fund