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Title:wig stand
Date Made:ca. 1750
Type:Furniture; Personal Equipment
Materials:wood: white pine; paint
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Boston (possibly)
Measurements:overall: 55 x 10 x 10 in.; 139.7 cm
Narrative Inscription:  In graphite under the head: "For Elijah Williams, Esq."
Accession Number:  HD 1641
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Wig stand with a round head with a painted man's face, on the top of a long round pole that is set into a square, flat base, which was used to store and dress a wig. According to family tradition, the stand belonged to Major Elijah Williams (1712-1771), who epitomized the Mansion People as the youngest son of one of the region's leading clergymen, Reverend John Williams (1664-1729) and his second wife, and the husband first of a Dwight and later a Pynchon. Elijah served as a military leader, representative to the colonial assembly in Boston, both selectman and town clerk for decades, and Deerfield's most prosperous merchant in the mid 1700s. Although men in New England "wore their own hair" wigs were an important status symbol. Prominent Deerfield men patronized local tavern keeper David Hoyt, who was also a "maker of wiggs and foretops."

Label Text:
Wig stands were convenient for storing, dressing and powdering wigs. They were often made with a disk-like support on a short stand for table-top use. Full-head examples with carved faces are extremely rare. The face may have been carved to resemble the owner, Elijah Williams, Esq. (1712-1771) of Deerfield.

Provenance: The underside of the head-shaped support is inscribed “For Elijah Williams, Esq.” According to family tradition, the stand belonged to Elijah Williams, Deerfield's most prosperous merchant in the mid 1700s and youngest son of Rev. John Williams (1664-1729) and his second wife, Abigail (Allen) Bissell (1672-1754).

A note about wigs: Men in their 20s who had acquired property and perhaps had mastered a trade, bought wigs as a sign of their rising status and measure of their ambition. Wigs ran the gamut of styles, materials and prices. The most expensive were made of human hair; the least expensive were made of angora goat hair and/or horse hair. Judging from the full-head shaping of this wig stand with carved face, Elijah Williams’s wig was probably of fine quality.

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