Massachusetts Historical Society announces discovery of papers of 18th century furniture maker, Nathaniel Gould

The Massachusetts Historical Society announced the discovery of previously unstudied business ledgers from one of America’s preeminent furniture makers, Nathaniel Gould. Gould is considered Salem, Mass., finest cabinetmaker of the mid-18th century, but without detailed records of his work, his legacy has been contested and enigmatic. The three ledgers found shed light on his business practices and describe every transaction in his shop on a daily basis. The ledgers will lead to the reattribution of key pieces in museum collections and possibly point to works by Gould that have not yet been identified.

Gould’s records have been in the Massachusetts Historical Society’s collections since 1835, but went unrecognized because they lay cached within the papers of Gould’s lawyer, Nathan Dane. The 250-year-old ledgers were brought to light with a quintessentially 21st-century tool:  a Google search. 

The Massachusetts Historical Society is digitizing thousands of catalog records and documents from its collections, which made finding Gould’s ledgers possible.  Researchers Kem Widmer and Joyce King, who first recognized the ledgers significance, are publishing their preliminary findings in the annual issue of American Furniture, which is being published this month. 

For more information on the Massachusetts Historical Society, visit www.masshist.org.

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