Please help date old dresser + washstand (w pics)

nutmegerOctober 22, 2012


I purchased these 2 pieces at an auction and intend to keep them. They were an absolute mess when I purchased them and look much better now. I have started a combination restoration/refinishing attempt and have been curious as to their approximate age. I will include a lot of pictures. They are maple, and the front of each drawer is a solid plank of maple, but I can't say that they are "matched" planks. I have seen some pretty swirls and birds eye features on the drawer fronts. I have noticed circular saw marks on the side of the drawers and other black diagonal marks on the front of the drawers that I wonder if its from a ripsaw? Also what is the construction method called when they sort of board and batten the sides and back - I can't remember the term. (The washstand rear was falling apart but I fixed that.) The escutcheon plates are adorable but sadly the piece did not come with backplates for the bail and pulls. Does anyone know if was common for people to donate brass furniture hardware toward the WWII scrap-metal collecting effort? Just curious. There are a few small nails on the back that appear to have held a manufacturing label, but the label is 98% gone. The dresser seems to have had wheels at one time. I do have the mirror for the dresser too - I haven't started working on that piece yet.

Overall I adore these pieces, but they are been a bit of work!

Thank you for your time!

-- Pauline

Ripsaw marks? see the thin black diagonal lines.

Finding birdseye under all that goo was a great surprise!!

The drawer construction seems fairly primitive to me.

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Good pictures and that will help. It's a pity about the backplates, but I can see they were stamped, not cast. These types of backplates are thin, and they are victims to time and use and it's very common to have them bend and snap over the years and literally fall off, or have to be removed. I have an antique dresser with similar issues. All the hardware is there, but several of the backplates are twisted and snapped from being bent. It often happened when the screws or brads holding the pulls were loose and not repaired quickly. They were not donated, I suspect. Just broken over the years and discarded. That in itself helps to date the era in which the piece was made. Generally it puts the manufacture between 1870 and 1915. The bail pull usually predates the drop pulls with stamped backplates. I have a commode (dry sink) in rosewood, but with cast backplates, but the design on the hardware is similar. The style on mine looks to be a bit older than the style on yours, and mine is from just before the turn of the century. I'm sure a few people will check in on this post, but your efforts are worth it. The old dry sinks often have the towel bar and pieces holding it long gone.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 1:36PM
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Thanks for the info! Makes sense the backplates could have gotten destroyed - the rest of the piece was pretty beat up too! Can anyone comment on the sawmarks - do they indicate anything related to the age? Are the slight black marks from a ripsaw? I'm guessing the curved ones are from a circular saw. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 8:11PM
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It's machine made....note the circular saw marks and the machine done dove tailing.
Those things put it after 1850-ish.
The porcelain castor puts is about 1870 and after.
The thin brass back plates ( I am assuming that the key hole plates reflect what was on the whole piece) Indicate 1890 to 1915 or so. The form....a wash stand with a metal towel bar, says about 1900...or a little later.
Bottom line?...Hmmm? The porcelain wheels speak guess about 1890.
Linda C

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:19PM
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It's in a lot better shape than you give it credit for. I wouldn't hesitate to restore those pieces as structurally they look pretty sound. BTW, those 'wheels' are properly referred to as casters, and ofen those on old furniture are just shoved in and held by pressure and prone to fall out when a piece is lifted. That's how they go missing so easily. They are often found in antique shops in bins of old sundries. Hardware is as well. Now, you can get real O/C about it and try to match the hardware up exactly, but if it were mine and I planned on using it, instead of turning it over, I'd hike down to the antique stores again and have a look. Those in a nearby town are just lousy with baskets of old hardware. LOL. It's going to be difficult to get large quantities of identical ones, however, unless somebody has scrapped a suit of furniture. Even in specialty shops where one can order sets of old ones. You may end up using repros.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:24PM
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Thanks for the info. LindaC - the metal towel hanger on the washstand is not original. I see holes where a wooden dowel once was but it broke off. Sorry I didn't mention that. I was going to drill those out and refit it with a new wooden dowel stained to match. For the washstand I'll take more pics of the casters. I'm guessing 2 may be original, 1 may be a replacement (it looks different). I didn't know that the caster material was a date indicator too - thanks for the info on that! I did pick up a 4th caster at a salvage store so it balances a little better, but it is always falling off - poor thing! Also there appears to be a metal fitting on the bottom of the legs surrounding the hole for the caster. That's how I was able to guess that the dresser had casters too. I'll take a pic of that too. I'm guessing that the key hole plates are original. There are no other nail holes on the piece by the key holes. I agree that structurally the dressers are in very good shape for their age. That maple is so solid! No veneers here! The bottoms of a couple of the drawers are a little cracked but I can work around that by making a pretty drawer liner that is on the thick side. I'll look into repro backplates but right now I want to get them finished off before it gets too cold to work on them outside - right now the weather is amazing! I'll post more pics later today and will also take pics of the mirror. I appreciate all the info! I adore old furniture and enjoy learning about these things. The history this piece has experienced! Its fun to think about. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 6:58AM
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I have that same wash stand,mines stained darker,love the other piece Id use it for a nite stand.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:01AM
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glad to know there are more pieces like this around! We purchased a cabin in West Virginia over the summer and are trying to put in it interesting, rustic-ish furniture, and this seemed to fit the bill for us. Its a bit of work for me but I'm learning a lot along the way "just in case" I find other pieces I want to restore.
I'll post additional pictures below.
The original casters appear to be wooden. I'm guessing they are original because when I tug at them they do not budge. There are 2 like this.
I hadn;t looked at the mirror in quite some time and its beveled - which I found surprising. Didn't know they were making beveled mirrors 100 years ago. I'm also including the back of the mirror because the hardware was interesting. Also including a picture of the washstand towel bar opening for the missing dowel. I like the rosette detail on the towel bar and mirror. I'm also happy that they are a matching set. The dresser will go in the master bedroom, the washstand will go in the small guest room and function as a combo side table/dresser. I hope to find a cute pitcher/bowl combo for the top of the washstand.
Thanks for all of the feedback - this has been fun :)

Wash stand towel dowel area:

mirror for dresser:

back of mirror:

mirror hardware:

wooden? caster:

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 10:23AM
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You are more likely to find older mirrors beveled than not. An old mirror has a different reflective return than a new one. The glass is thicker and the silvering methods differ as well. The rosette detail is helpful in dating. Thanks for the additional pictures. To me it just sort of affirms what all the posters have inputted so far. It's a good find when you get two pieces of the same set. I'd have scooped this set up if the price was reasonable.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 10:09AM
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Thanks Calliope and LindaC for all of your info! I hope someday to be more knowledgeable in antiques, so every little bit helps me :)
I purchased them at an auction about half hour from Washington DC. The dresser for I think $25 and the washstand for I think $35 (plus buyers premium) Dont think the auctioneer mentioned the mirror when he was auctioning off the dresser, but I was aware they had it :) The tops were really stained and burned and goodness knows what else. I'm doing a lot of work on them and so far they are turning out soo pretty. The maple is amazing. Swirls and birdseye! I would never have known! Think I'll just finish them off with boiled linseed oil, and will find backplates suitable for them. Thanks again! -- Pauline

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 5:40PM
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