Card table made by Daniel Clay (1770-1848), which came from the Viola Wilby estate. According to a handwritten list of family objects in the file by Elizabeth Hawks Wells (1845-1938), the wife of George Merritt Wells (1839-1883) of Deerfield: "19. Card table. Belonged to Grandmother Wells. The second one of her pair is in possession of Abbie and Annie Stebbins. Believed to have been made by my great-grandfather Tyrell. Grandmother Wells married in 1807." "Grandmother Wells" was Abigail Tirrell Wells (1780-1859) who married Walter Wells (1770-1853) in 1807 and lived in Shelburne, Massachusetts. Born in New London, Conn., Clay probably trained in the Hartford area (or perhaps New York) with a cabinetmaker familiar with New York fashions; he moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts sometime before Nov. 1794, marrying Lucinda Smead in 1795. In 1794, he advertised in the "Greenfield Gazette" and had a paper label printed: "CABINET WORK / DANIEL CLAY, / AT HIS SHOP IN GREENFIELD, /MAKES all kinds of Cabinet and Shop Join-/ery Work, and constantly/ keeps an assortment on hand/ which he will sell on reasonable/ terms, for Cash, all kinds of/ Country Produce & Lumber,/ or approved Credit. Every/ favour will be duly acknowl-/edged, by their humble ser-/vant,/ Daniel Clay./ November 4, 1794." He also made Windsors and fancy chairs, pembroke and dressing tables, clock cases, candlestands, chests, and coffins. He expanded his business to include other ventures, but eventually all failed and he moved to NYC in 1832 to become a druggist. Early in his career, between 1800 and 1815, Daniel Clay designed and built solid-wood furniture that emphasized simple lines and eschewed laminated components, veneer, and inlaid decoration. He designed this card table with a gadrooned molding nailed to the bottom of the front and side rails, and square tapered legs that feature subtle entasis, or a slightly swelled shape and projecting cuffs. English designer George Hepplewhite termed this style “thermed feet” in his design book, "The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide" first published in 1788, which was advertised for sale in Hartford in 1799. The fixed and hinged leaves of the rectangular top and conforming frame are supported by three fixed legs and one hinged leg, all of which are square-tapered with slight entasis and feature flaring cuffs. A gadrooned molding is nailed to the bottom edges of the frame's front and sides. The inside rear edges of the fixed and hinged leaves are decorated with a bead molding as are the three outside edges of the square tapered legs above the cuffs. The primary wood is cherry and the hidden drawer is entirely white pine.
One of an original pair, this card table is made out of solid cherry, designed with a gadrooned skirt and square-tapered legs ending in cuffed feet—design features that Greenfield cabinetmaker Daniel Clay (1770-1848) favored in his furniture. English cabinetmaker George Hepplewhite (c.1720-1786) illustrated and described thermed legs in his 1788 pattern book, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide, plates 106 and 120.
“Thermed” legs referred not only to a design but also to a process that was “in use towards the end of the eighteenth century, before circular and band saws were invented, by which the legs of chairs and tables were thermed or tapered, by means of a lathe provided with a cylinder about six feet in diameter, on which the legs were placed and turned down one side at a time,” according to English furniture historians James Penderel-Brodhurst and Edwin Layton (1925).
By ganging four or six leg blanks on the lathe’s large cylinder-shaped frame, the cabinetmaker could produce a complete set of tapered legs at once. The large diameter of the cylinder helped to minimize the slight curvature that the turning process imparted to each leg. The swelled profiles of the legs on this card table suggest that Daniel Clay may have used a “therming lathe” in his shop.
Provenance: According to family tradition, Abigail Tirrell Wells (1780-1859) and Walter Wells (1770-1853) of Deerfield received this card table and its mate as a wedding gift in 1807.
Early in his career, between 1800 and 1815, Daniel Clay designed and built solid-wood furniture that emphasized simple lines and eschewed laminated components, veneer, and inlaid decoration. He designed this card table with a gadrooned molding nailed to the bottom of the front and side rails, and square tapered legs that feature subtle entasis, or a slightly swelled shape and projecting cuffs. English designer George Hepplewhite termed this style “thermed feet” in his design book, "The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer's Guide" published in 1788.