American Decorative Arts



Frame, white oak; light and dark "checkerboard" inlays, raised, beveled moldings, American black walnut (dark heartwood and light sapwood); applied spindles, bosses soft maple; other applied moldings, eastern red cedar; side panels of lower case, lower left back panel of lower case, chestnut; some replaced elements, yellow poplar

56 5/8 × 43 5/16 × 23 1/16 in. (143.8 × 110 × 58.5 cm)
other (Upper case): 39 9/16 in. (100.5 cm)
other (Lower case): 41 5/16 × 21 1/4 in. (104.9 × 53.9 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
Made in Connecticut coast
Probably made in New Haven
17th century

In a statement written in the 1920s, the Reverend Edward Comfort Starr (Yale College, 1866; Yale Theological Seminary, 1870) traced the descent of the cupboard through four generations of his family back to the late eighteenth century. When his grandfather Deacon Comfort Starr (ca. 1770-1862) was married in 1808, he lived in the "Old Starr House" in Guilford, Conn., which had been purchased by his father, William (ca. 1730-1816), in 1786. Edward's grandmother, according to Edward, recalled "the old cupboard...was in the house and called 'the old ark' when she came there to live, but [she] did now, I think, know whence it came. It might have been his [William's] wife, who was a Burgis; or he might have inherited it from his ancestors, Starr, Hopson, or others unnamed; or it is possible that is was left in the house by other occupants, Collins, Wright, Lee, in the late seventeenth century.) Later owners included Comfort Starr's sons, Henry B. Starr and his younger brother, Burgis P. Starr, who was the owner in the early 1860s. About 1880, Burgis P. Starr gave the cupboard to his nephew, Edward Comfort Starr, apparently reserving a life interest for his wife, who was still the owner when Lyon pictured the cupboard in 1891. After the death of Mrs. Starr, her adopted daughter, Christine (Mrs. Harvey Brainerd), effected the transfer to Edward Comfort Starr, who in turn gave the cupboard about 1925 to his daughter Mabel E. Starr of Cornwall, Conn. It was purchased from Miss Starr 27 January 1930 by Henry Hammond Taylor, acting as agent for Francis P. Garvan, New York, NY. Gift in 1930 to Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


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), 102, 375, 377–79, no. 194, ill.

Victor Chinnery, Oak Furniture: The British Tradition (Suffolk, England: Antique Collector’s Club Ltd., 1979), 514, fig. 4:225.

Wallace Nutting, Furniture Treasury, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1928–33), n.p., no. 469.

Thomas H. Ormsbee, The Story of American Furniture (New York: MacMillan Company, 1934), 239–41, fig. 102.

Russell Hawes Kettell, Early American Rooms (Portland, Maine: Southworth-Anthoensen Press, 1936), ill.

John T. Kirk, American Furniture and the British Tradition to 1830 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982), 72–73, fig. 163.

Meyric R. Rogers, “The Mabel Brady Garvan Collection of Furniture,” Yale Alumni Magazine 25, no. 4 (January 1962): 6, ill.

Patricia E. Kane, Furniture of the New Haven Colony: The Seventeenth Century Style, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: New Haven Museum and Historical Society, 1973), 52–53, no. 23.

Charles Nagel, Jr., American Furniture: 1650–1850 (New York: Chanticleer Press, 1949), 19, 23–24, pl. 1.

Wallace Nutting, Furniture of the Pilgrim Century 1620–1720 (Framingham, Mass.: Old American Company Publishers, 1924), 214, 241, fig. 223.

Robert F. Trent, “The Chest of Drawers in America: A Postscript,” Winterthur Portfolio 20 (Spring 1985): 36–37, fig. 9.

Irving W. Lyon, The Colonial Furniture of New England: A Study of the Domestic Furniture in Use in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1891), 55, no. 18, facing p.52.

Luke Vincent Lockwood, Colonial Furniture in America, 3rd ed., 2 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1926), vol. 1, p. 159–60, fig. 165.

Luke Vincent Lockwood, The Furniture Collector’s Glossary (New York: Walpole Society, 1913), 20, line drawing, ill.

R. T. Haines Halsey and Charles O. Cornelius, A Handbook of the American Wing, 2nd (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1925), 58.

John Marshall Phillips, “Outstanding Examples from the Mabel Brady Garvan Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 8, no. 2 (February 1938): 44, ill.

“American Arts and the American Experience,” Museum News 53, no. 3 (November 1974): 38.

“Antiques,” Antiques 92, no. 4 (October 1967): 506–7, ill.

Connecticut Furniture: Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, exh. cat. (Hartford, Conn.: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 1967), 65, no. 110.

Luke Vincent Lockwood, Three Centuries of Connecticut Furniture, 1635–1935: An Exhibition at the Morgan Memorial, Hartford as art of the Celebration of the Tercentenary of Connecticut, exh. cat. (Hartford, Conn.: Morgan Memorial, 1935), 16, no. 57.

Associates in Fine Arts, Yale University, “Handbook: A Description of the Gallery of Fine Arts and the Collections,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 5, nos. 1–3 (1931): 58, ill.

Patricia E. Kane, “New Haven Colony Furniture: The Seventeenth Century Style,” Antiques 103 (May 1973): 956–58, pl. 2–3.

Erik K. Gronning, “New Haven’s Six-board Chests,” Antiques 163, no. 5 (May 2003): 119, pl. 7.

Walter A. Dyer, “Chest-and-Cupboard Alliances,” The Christian Science Monitor (1932): 8, ill.

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 such records is ongoing.