The Gallery’s collection of American decorative arts ranges in date from about A.D. 1000 to the present day, with the earliest objects representing the art of Indigenous people who lived in North America before European settlement. Its particular strengths are in the colonial and early Federal periods, due in large part to generous gifts from Francis P. Garvan, B.A. 1897. Yale’s collection of early silver is noted for superior examples from New England, New York, and Philadelphia. The furniture collection comprises outstanding examples from all periods, with particular strength in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.

Also present in the American decorative arts collection are significant holdings in pewter and other metals, as well as glass, ceramics, textiles, and wallpaper. A major addition to the collection occurred in the 1980s, when Carl R. Kossack, B.S. 1931, M.A. 1933, and his family donated more than 7,000 pieces of American silver, with particular concentrations in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In recent decades, acquisitions have focused on late 19th- and 20th-century objects, including contemporary turned wood, the John C. Waddell Collection of American modernist design, and the Swid Powell Collection.

The permanent-collection galleries feature a chronological survey of American design from the colonial period to the present day. Thematic cases explore how issues of commerce, gender, religion, and ethnicity are integrated into the American experience. In addition to the pieces displayed in the Gallery, more than 1,300 examples are held in the Furniture Study.


American Decorative Arts Highlights

Lift-Top Chest with Drawer

Maker, attributed to: Robert Crossman (American, 1707–1779)

Pair of Candelabra

Designer: Kem Weber (American, born Germany, 1889–1963)
Maker: Porter Blanchard (American, 1886–1973)

Shoe Buckle

Maker: Myer Myers (American, 1723–1795)

Fancy Chair No. 7

Maker, attributed to: Wenzel Friedrich (American, born Bohemia, 1827–1902)

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