Harbor and Home: Furniture of Coastal New England, 1725-1825

Brock Jobe, Winterthur Museum

Tuesday, December 8, 2009Mini-exhibit: 7:15pmLecture: 8:00pm
de Young Museum

When Yale’s President, Timothy Dwight, visited Cape Cod in 1800, he found that the inhabitants “are like beavers, gaining their subsistence from the water, and make use of the land chiefly as a residence.” The extensive coastline and network of tidal rivers placed nearly everyone within sight of the water. Although early settlers farmed, they soon learned that money was to be made from the water all around them. Fishing, whaling, ship-building and maritime commerce brought prosperity to the region.

Brock Jobe’s presentation will consider how the sea affected the furniture of southeastern Massachusetts, a region stretching from Rhode Island to just south of Boston. The story is a familiar one, repeated in many towns along the coast of New England. Imported furniture easily reached these ports, providing both competition and sources of design for the local craftsmen who clustered in these seaport communities. Goods from Boston, Newport and Providence as well as Philadelphia, New York and Europe influenced regional furniture. By the 1820s, a flood of products, fashioned in larger furniture manufactories outside southeastern Massachusetts, changed the local industry forever.

Following graduation from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, Brock Jobe was a research assistant at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and an editorial assistant—-and contributor—-for Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century (1974).

Brock Jobe then served as associate curator and curator of exhibition buildings at Colonial Williamsburg and chief curator for the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. He returned to Winterthur as deputy director for collections and interpretation and then deputy director for collections, conservation and interpretation.

After a 28-year career as a museum curator and administrator, his career came full circle in 2000 when he returned to Winterthur as a professor. Brock Jobe teaches graduate courses in historic interiors and American decorative arts, mentors graduate students, advises theses, leads field trips and helps place students after graduation. He is also a frequent lecturer at museums, antiques shows and collectors’ clubs throughout the country, including his December, 1990 presentation to the Forum, “Portsmouth Furniture, 1700-1825.”

Brock Jobe’s fields of interest are early American furniture and upholstery, 18th century domestic interiors and historic house management. He co-authored New England Furniture: The Colonial Era (1984) and organized and edited Portsmouth Furniture: Masterworks from the New Hampshire Seacoast (1993). He also edited and contributed essays to Boston Furniture of the Eighteenth Century (1974) and New England Furniture: Essays in Memory of Benno M. Forman (1987); contributed “The Boston Upholstery Trade, 1700-1775” to Upholstery in America and Europe from the Seventeenth Century to World War I (1987); co-authored American Furniture with Related Decorative Arts 1660-1830, The Milwaukee Art Museum and the Layton Art Collection (1991); contributed to Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U. S. Department of State (1991); and contributed to The Concord Museum, Decorative Arts from a New England Collection (1996).

Brock Jobe’s contributions to the Chipstone publication are “The Lisle Desk and Bookcase: A Rhode Island Icon” (2001) and “Sophistication in Rural Massachusetts: The Inlaid Cherry Furniture of Nathan Lombard” (1998) with Clark Pearce (July’s speaker as well as in April, 2008 for “Sophistication in Central Massachusetts: The Inlaid Furniture of Nathan Lombard”). Mr. Jobe’s most recent work is Harbor and Home: Furniture of Southeastern Massachusetts, 1710-1850, coauthored with Gary Sullivan and Jack O’Brien, also the subject of a Winterthur exhibition.

7:15pm mini-exhibit

Share your seashells by the sea shore. Let us see your seascapes.


Koret Auditorium, de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco. Enter from Level B1 of the parking garage; pedestrians enter from the concourse side of Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive and down the steps across the street from the museum’s main entrance.