Early American (1640-1700)

Early American furniture is rudimentary, utilitarian furniture made from local woods. It was brought from or modeled after European furniture styles, particularly from England, France, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Spain.



Simple – Straight lines, simple design, and little ornamentation.(Contemporary style shown)

Chair Arms

Simple Turning or Flat – Arms are straight with a simple turning or are flat.
Straight – Arms are straight and perpendicular to the chair.

Chair Back Material

Wood – Solid wood, horizontal slats, vertical slats, or vertical splats.

Chair Back Shape

Banister – Three to six vertical turned slats in the shape of a baluster, flat on the front and round on the back.
Ladderback or Slatback – Equally spaced horizontal flat slats, either straight or curved.
Solid – One piece or solid panel chair back.
Spindle – Simple turned vertical slats.
Stile and Panel – Wood or cane back panel framed between two straight or turned stiles.
Turned – Vertical turnings: the Carver design has a single row of turnings and the Brewster design has a double row of turnings.

Chair Leg

Round – Round, usually shaped or turned leg.
Straight – Straight leg, vertical to chair seat.
Simple Turning – Turned leg with a few types of turnings.
Square – Flat surfaced leg on all sides.

Chair Seat Material

Rush – Woven rush.
Wood – Various types of wood.

Chair Seat Shape

Square – Square shaped seat.

Drawer Pull

Carved Wood (Simple) – Simple carved handle made of wood.
Tear Drop – Tear-drop shaped pull attached by a knob to a back plate. The back plate is usually circular, oval, or diamond shaped.
Turned Wooden Knob – Elongated, turned wooden knob, often 3 inches long and 1.25 inches in diameter.
Wooden Mushroom-Shaped Knob – Mushroom-shaped wooden knob, often 1 inch high and 1.5 to 2.5 inches in diameter.


Cretonne – Medium to heavyweight, unglazed printed fabric, often made of cotton or linen in large floral patterns.
Leather – Material made from the tanning of animal hides.
Linen – Fabric made from the fiber of the flax plant.


Oil Varnish – Clear finish that emphasized the grain of the wood.
Paint – Opaque, pigmented finish that obscures the grain of the wood.
Wax – Paste finish over a sealer, stain, or bare wood.


Block – Flat-surfaced foot.
Bracket – Angular curved foot, usually used with case furniture.
Bun – Rounded foot, flatter than a ball foot.
Continuation of leg – Leg does not terminate into a foot.

Hardware Material

Iron – Grayish-brown metal with a dull finish.
Leather – Animal hide, used in strips as pulls.
Wood – Various types of wood, carved or turned.


Mortise and tenon – Wood joint in which a projecting tenon of one board is fitted into a mortise or hole of another board.


Straight – Straight lines.


Circle – A spherical shape.
Diamond – A figure with four equal sides and two obtuse angles.
Pine Tree – Evergreen tree.
Rose – Rose or similar flower.
Scroll – Form that resembles a roll of parchment paper.
Sunflower – Daisy-like flower.
Tulip – Cup-shaped flower.


Carving – Cutting or chipping the surface of wood to create a shape or design.
Finial – Decorative turning affixed to the tops of case furniture, and chair and bed posts.
Paneling – Raised, recessed, and framed panels.
Spindle – Turned pieces, split vertically often affixed to the front of case furniture.


Heavy – Sturdy, thick dimensions.(Chippendale style shown)


Heavy – Sturdy stretchers.(Jacobean style shown)


Ash – Whitish-gray American hardwood with similar graining to oak.
Birch – Red-brown American hardwood with a close grain.
Cherry – Red-brown American hardwood.
Elm – Red-brown American hardwood.
Fruitwood – Pink-brown American hardwood, including apple and pear.
Hickory – Red-brown American hardwood.
Maple – Golden to Red-brown American hardwood with a wide range of figures.
Oak – Gray-brown American hardwood.
Pine – Yellow to pink-brown American softwood.
Sycamore – Creamy-white European hardwood, treated to turn a silvery-gray or pink-brown color.