Some Wonderful Educational Videos from Yale University

Making a Wainscot Chair

This video shows Kingston, Massachusetts, joiner Peter Follansbee, undertaking several steps in the process of recreating a wainscot chair, like the example from Swansea, Massachusetts (later Warren, Rhode Island), ca. 1680, on view in the exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830”. The video captures the rough shaping of the legs with a hatchet, the smoothing of those surfaces with planes, and the creation of the geometric floral ornament on the back panel and crest with chisels, a mallet, and steel stamps.

Tall Case Clock with Automated Dial

This groundbreaking exhibition presents a comprehensive survey of Rhode Island furniture from the colonial and early Federal periods, including elaborately carved chairs, high chests, bureau tables, and clocks. Drawing together more than 130 exceptional objects from museums, historical societies, and private collections, the show highlights major aesthetic innovations developed in the region. In addition to iconic, stylish pieces from important centers of production like Providence and Newport, the exhibition showcases simpler examples made in smaller towns and for export. The exhibition also addresses the surprisingly broad reach of Rhode Island’s furniture production, from the boom of the export trade at the turn of the 17th century and its steady growth throughout the 18th century to the gradual decline of the handcraft tradition in the 19th century. Reflecting on one of New England’s most important artistic traditions, Art and Industry in Early America encourages a newfound appreciation for this dynamic school of American furniture making.

Making a Banister-Back Chair

In this video, made for the exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830,“ Sedgwick, Maine, furniture maker Joshua Klein reproduces a banister-back chair in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. The maple and ash chair was made in Rhode Island, probably sometime between 1720 and 1800. From splitting the wood from a log, to turning the chair parts on a treadle lathe, to the final assembly, the video provides detailed views of each step in the process.

Making a Claw-and-Ball Foot, Shell, and Dovetails

This video shows Rhode Island furniture maker Jeffrey Greene demonstrating the techniques eighteenth-century Rhode Island cabinetmakers used to create signature aspects of their work, including carving a claw-and-ball foot with undercut talons, designing and carving an applied shell, and cutting the fine dovetail joints for which Rhode Island makers were renowned. The demonstration pieces Greene made for the video are available to be handled in the exhibition “Art and Industry in Early America: Rhode Island Furniture, 1650–1830.”

Yale University Art Gallery: Furniture Study

The Furniture Study houses more than 1,100 works from the Gallery’s collection of American Decorative Arts. This installation of chests, tables, chairs, desks, clocks, cupboards, looking glasses, and woodturnings charts important stylistic developments in American craftsmanship and design. Since the opening of the Furniture Study in the 1960s, efforts have been made to acquire a representative selection of works that offer the opportunity for in-depth study of both stylistic development and regional differences. The Furniture Study also houses a selection of historical tools associated with woodworking and cabinetmaking. The collection is particularly strong in colonial and Federal furniture, mostly from the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection.

Musical Tall Clock

Benjamin Willard (American, 1743–1803) Musical Tall Clock Grafton, Massachusetts, ca. 1789 American cherry and white pine 91 7/8 x 21 x 12 1/2 in. (233.4 x 53.3 x 31.8 cm) Mabel Brady Garvan Collection 1930.2284 Tall clocks were among the most extravagant possessions owned by the elite in colonial America. Multiple craftsmen were involved in their manufacture: a clockmaker assembled intricate works, often using imported gears and parts, and a cabinetmaker fitted the works into custom-built cases. Some clocks were more than timepieces—they were also musical instruments. Musical clocks were complex and costly to produce, and only about 150 American examples are known to survive. This clock in the Gallery’s collection was made shortly after the American Revolution by Benjamin Willard while he was working in Grafton, Massachusetts. When the clock strikes the hour, it triggers a mechanism hidden behind the clock face: a cylinder studded with pins rotates and causes hammers to hit a series of bells and produce a recognizable song. Remarkably, we are able to hear the music much the way it sounded to an eighteenth-century listener because the tone is determined by the pitch of the bells and the rhythm is set by the mechanism that drives the cylinder. Willard’s unusually sophisticated clock plays seven songs—a different tune for each day of the week. In this short video, the clock plays a popular fife march called “Marquis of Granby,” which was first published in London in 1760. Words were added a few years later, with the opening line, “To arms, to arms, to arms, my jolly grenadier.” These lyrics may have resonated with the original owner of the clock, who had just witnessed the young nation’s call to arms.

Musical Clock Exhibit Willard Museum

Gary takes us on a tour of the American musical clock exhibit he put together at the Willard House and Clock Museum. This unprecedented grouping of clocks includes almost 40 rare musical clocks that play historical tunes, just as our ancestors heard them.

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