Chest-on-Chest Maker: (cabinet) Stephen Badlam (American, 1751–1815)
Carver: John Skillin (American, 1745–1800)
Carver: Simeon Skillin, Jr. (American, 1756–1806)


American Decorative Arts

On view, 1st floor, American Decorative Arts before 1900

Following the Revolution, some citizens sought domestic objects that would express in the most elaborate ways America's pride in having achieved independence. Shipping magnate Elias Hasket Derby (1739–1799), a prominent citizen of Salem, Massachusetts, could well afford to do so. In commissioning this massive piece from Stephen Badlam, a war veteran from a town south of Boston, Derby took the unusual step of engaging leading Boston sculptors to carve figures for the pediment of the case. Rising to the challenge set by their patron, John Skillin and his brother Simeon created a scheme of three females in fashionable Neoclassical dress and distinctive accessories imbued with allegorical meaning. The figure on the left, holding an olive wreath and a palm frond, personifies Peace. On the right is Plenty, clasping a cornucopia. The central figure wears the gilt-sun brooch and laurel wreath associated with Virtue, while the Phrygian cap on a liberty pole is an attribute of Liberty. Through this combination of attributes, she represents America. Family tradition has it that Derby and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby, gave this piece as a wedding present to their daughter Anstis, who married Benjamin Pickman, Jr., of Salem in 1789.


Mahogany; front of drawer in architrave, mahogany; other drawer fronts, mahogany veneer on chestnut; eastern white pine; bottom dustboard in lower case, red pine


101 1/8 × 51 1/2 × 23 3/4 in. (256.9 × 130.8 × 60.3 cm)
Upper case: 42 13/16 × 19 3/4 in. (108.7 × 50.2 cm)
Lower case: 46 × 23 3/4 in. (116.8 × 60.3 cm)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Accession Number



18th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



According to a family tradition, this chest-on-chest was presented by Elias Hasket Derby (1739-1799) and his wife, Elizabeth Crowninshield Derby (1735-1799), of Salem, Mass., as a wedding present to their daughter Anstis Derby (1769-1836), who married Benjamin Pickman, Jr. (1763-1843), of Salem in 1789. The discrepancy between the date of marriage and the date of 1791 on the bill for the complete chest is usually explained by the theory that the chest was ordered as a wedding present but not completed and delivered until nearly two years later. Elias Hasket Derby's will (docket 7571, Essex County Probate Records, Essex County Courthouse, Salem, Mass.) makes mention of a bequest to Anstis and adds: "And I do in addition to the foregoing give and confirm unto my said daughter Anstis all and what I gave her at the time of her marriage." There are no probate records on file for Anstis Derby Pickman. In the inventory of the estate of Benjamin Pickman, Jr. (docket 50218), which was taken room by room, the only two possibilities that might refer to this object are a "Case Draws" in the "Middlechamber" valued at $12 and a "Case Draws" in the "Front Western Chamber" valued at $6. No mention of the object is made in Pickman's will of 1843. The next likely owner, however, is Pickman's daughter Martha (1802-1885), who married Samuel Baker Walcott (d. 1854) in 1829. The Walcotts seem to have divided their time between Salem and Hopkinton, N.H. No detailed specification of household goods is given in Samuel Walcott's estate papers (doct 56152), although he did own "furniture in house in Salem" valued at a total of $900. In his will, dated 1851, Samuel Walcott bequeaths all of his "furniture and household stuff of every kind" to his wife. Martha Pickman Walcott died in Salem in 1885. She left all of her "household furniture and good, silver and other plate, clothing and books, not enumerated and specified, in a memorandum in writing under [her] hand" to her daughter Elizabeth Packard, wife of Alpheus S. Packard. (The "Schedule of Legacies" bequeathed to her other children does not mention any object that could be the Yale chest.) Martha Walcott's household furniture at 133 Lafayette Street in Salem was valued at only $250 but was not itemized (docket 61881). The chest appears to have been owned by Elizabeth Derby Walcott Packard (1824-1929) and her husband Alpheus from about 1885 to 1919; they lived in Andover, Mass. Elizabeth Packard's will of 1906 (docket 162422) states: "All my household furniture, books, pictures, china, glass, silver, jewelry, and all other articles of household use or ornament, I give to my executor hereinafter named to be distributed by him among my children in accordance with directions which will be found among my papers at my death." This "List of articles to be distributed," however, makes no mention of the Yale chest, for it had already passed to her daughter and out of the family's hands. One of Elizabeth's beneficiaries was to be her daughter Martha W. Packard of Andover. Elizabeth's will specifies that Martha, acting on some misguided advice from her mother, made a bad investment and lost a considerable amount of money, a sum her mother felt obliged to repay. Elizabeth may have given her daughter the chest about 1919 as one way of repaying her, since the chest was sold in that year to New York dealer Charles Woolsey Lyon. An undated letter from Martha Walcott Packard to Francis P. Garvan gives the following family tradition: "This is the history as it has come to me from my mother: Elias Hasket Derby of Salem (my great-great-grandfather) had the chest made for his daughter Anstiss, when she married Benjamin Pickman, also of Salem, in 1789. It then belonged to their daughter, Martha, who married Samuel Baker Walcott in 1829. My mother inherited it and handed it on to me." Lyon sold the chest to Francis P. Garvan, New York, in 1919. Gift in 1930 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 90–91, no. 34, ill
  • Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 110–11, no. 53, ill
  • Dean T. Lahikainen, Samuel McIntire: Carving an American Style, 1st, exh. cat. (Salem, Mass.: Peabody Essex Museum, 2007), 61, References on p. 14, 52, and 60; detail of central figure, p. 87, fig. 3-78; detail of PL figure, p. 161, fig. 4-137., fig. 3-17
  • Wayne Craven, American Art: History and Culture (Boston: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1994), 165, fig. 12.3
  • Elise K. Kenney, ed., Handbook of the Collections: Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 92, ill
  • Gerald W. R. Ward, American Case Furniture in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1988), 14, 36–37, 163, 171–77, no. 82, pl. 7
  • John S. Bowan, American Furniture (New York: Exeter, 1985), 80
  • Sylvia Leistyna Lahvis Ph.D., Four Chests with Carved Figures (Newark, Del.: University of Delaware, 1983), n.p., pl. 1
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  • Patricia E. Kane, "American Furniture in the Yale University Art Gallery," Antiques 117, no. 5 (June 1980), 1321, pl. VIII
  • Carol Olsen, "Stylistic Developments of Ship Figureheads of the United States East Coast," International Journal of Nautical Archeology and Underwater Exploration 8 (November 1979), 13
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  • Tom Armstrong, 200 Years of American Sculpture (Boston: David R. Godine, 1976), n.p., fig. 123, 124
  • Charles F. Montgomery and Patricia E. Kane, eds., American Art: 1750–1800 Towards Independence, exh. cat. (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1976), n.p., [included in catalogue but not in exhibition], fig. 70
  • John Cornforth, "From Mayflower to Monroe: Yale University Furniture," Country Life 155 (January 3–10, 1974), 25
  • Wayne Craven, Sculpture in America (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968), n.p., fig. 1.7
  • Helena Hayward, ed., World Furniture: An Illustrated History (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965), 195, fig. 726
  • Ethel Hall Bjerkoe, The Cabinetmakers of America (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1957), n.p., pl. XXI
  • Larry Freeman, Federal-Empire, 3 (Watkins Glen, N.Y.: Century House Americana, 1956), 2, 8
  • Mabel M. Swan, "General Stephen Bedlam: Cabinet and Looking-Glass Maker," Antiques 65 (May 1954), 380, ill
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  • Charles Nagel, Jr., American Furniture: 1650–1850 (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1949), 58, 65, pl. 24
  • Mabel M. Swan, "Boston's Carvers and Joiners, Part I," Antiques 53 (March 1948), 198, fig. 1
  • Sherrill Whiton, Elements of Interior Decoration, rev. ed. (Chicago: J. B. Lippincott, 1944), 264, ill
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  • Homer Eaton Keyes, "Editor's Attic," Antiques 31 (March 1937), 114, fig. 4
  • Edward Stratton Holloway, The Practical Book of American Furniture and Decoration: Colonial and Federal (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1937), n.p., pl. 40
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  • Homer Eaton Keyes, "Milton, Beverly, and Salem," Antiques 23 (April 1933), 142, fig. 1
  • Mabel M. Swan, "A Revised Estimate of McIntire," Antiques 20 (December 1931), 341, fig. 6
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  • Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), no. 324, ill
  • William Farquhar Payson, ed., Mahogany, Antique and Modern (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1926), 117–18, ill
  • Felice Davis, "American Furniture: The Second or Revolutionary Period in American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum," Antiquarian 5 (September 1925), 12, ill
  • R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 2nd (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925), 205
  • Fiske Kimball, "Some Carved Figures by Samuel McIntire," Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 18 (August 1923), 195, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

chests-on-chests, utilitarian objects


Paper shipping labels pasted to the top of both the upper and the lower case read: "For Elias Hasket Derby / Esqr Salem / Keep this side up / & preserve it / from the Sun from wet & from bruises. / It is of Consequence enough / to merit great attention." Because the handwriting on these labels bears a close resemblance to that of Stephen Badlam on other documents, it is believed that these labels were applied when the object was shipped by boat from Badlam's shop in Dorchester Lower Mills to Derby's wharf in Salem.

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