APS Library Bulletin headline
New Series, vol. 1, no. 1, Winter 2001


For I shall never forgive myself, if I were to omit the name of the first inventor, and claim that as my own invention, which I learnt from another person.
Peter Kalm, September, 1748, acknowledging his debt to John Bartram.
from Kalm, Travels into North America, tr. by J.R. Forster (Warrington 1770), vol. 1:114.
My heartfelt thanks to all who encouraged and aided my research for this article, and shared their good fellowship. Robert S. Cox, Curator of Manuscripts at the American Philosophical Society, who had invited its publication, gave unstinting support at every step. It was Rob who suggested broadening the scope of the article to include the social and commercial context within which John Head produced his furniture, in order to take greater advantage of the voluminous detail in the material. It was also he who conceived of disseminating this article on-line now, rather than await the publication of my fuller research at a much later date. Both of these suggestions will enable a wider audience to more quickly learn of the significance of John Head's account book. Rob's colleague, Roy E. Goodman, Assistant Librarian and Curator of Printed Materials, provided many helpful texts and access to searchable data bases of materials contemporaneous to John Head. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr. answered with erudition my questions regarding early APS members he had profiled, including Thomas Godfrey and Benjamin Franklin. Inquiries and expressions of confidence from Librarian Edward C. Carter, II emboldened further effort. I am honored to have an article published in such good company. Finally, the dedication and motivation of the entire staff of APS Library made it a pleasure to conduct research there.

Richard A. Mones, M.D. read portions of the manuscript in draft. Rick's questions and comments stimulated additional research and discovery, and made for a better result. Rick and Rob Cox helped to interpret Head's often bizarre spellings, as did Sue and Del Swan. Also appreciated is the generosity of Rick and Pam Mones, H. L. ["Skip"] Chalfant, and others in discussing objects from their collections and permitting me to illustrate them. For general knowledge of the period and queries as to certain of its furniture, Skip, Joe McFalls, and Thère Fiechter were most helpful. Questions regarding construction, tools, and materials were graciously fielded by furniture conservators Christopher Storb, David DeMuzio, and Alan Andersen. Valued, as well, were the discussions with Chris and Rick regarding their own inquiries into Stretch clocks, as many were cased by Head. I am pleased that both have been able to cite entries from the account book in their contributions to horological research. Trina Vaux McCauley answered many questions on the Vaux family, and directed me to the George Vaux Papers, in my search for information on William Sansom Vaux, who had acquired the Franklin dressing table. That search led to the serendipitous discovery of the Head account book and, eventually, to this article.

Thanks are also due to the staffs of libraries and archives of other local institutions. Rachel Onuf, currently at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania on a grant from the Mellon Foundation, was especially thoughtful in directing me to catalogue entries pertaining to John Head. When material was occasionally not found where catalogued, HSP manuscript staff were resourceful, and often successful, in uncovering it. Also acknowledged is the clerk at the Philadelphia Register of Wills who submitted to countless requests for the originals of wills and inventories, many of which could no longer be accounted for. Regrettably among the missing, are those of John Head, and his sons John Head, Jr. and Samuel Head.

At Winterthur, Bert Denker facilitated access to the Decorative Arts Photographic Collection. Jeanne Solensky, Associate Librarian, was ever patient in ferreting out my requests for "just one more" item from the Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Ephemera. Jeanne and Manuscripts Librarian Rick McKinstry also brought to my attention several helpful articles by former Winterthur Fellows pertaining to 18th century bookkeeping. When records and information proved hard to find, the interest of curators Brock Jobe, Charles Hummel, and Wendy Cooper, spurred me on to greater effort. Particularly regenerative was a breakfast with Brock, during which we exchanged insights and enthusiasm regarding my work on Head and his on Boston furniture craftsmen.

Research into Head's English roots was furthered by resources suggested by Geoffrey Beard, President of the Attingham Trust, and our Attingham colleague Mary Ann Apicella Hollihan. Those manning the desk at the Manuscripts Division of the Guildhall, Corporation of London, aided my examination of the records of the Joiners' Company. Jane Isaac, Resident Archivist, of the Suffolk Records Office in Bury St. Edmunds, excited to hear that a hometown boy had "made good" in the Colonies, took particular interest in the project.

The research of Benno Forman, Beatrice Garvan, William Macpherson Hornor, Jr., Arthur W. Leibundguth, Cathryn J. McElroy, and Margaret Berwind Schiffer provided firm footing for examining the interactions of John Head and his contemporaries. Their insights into early furniture of Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, and their citation to primary sources not generally known, suggested many new avenues of inquiry. That their work can now be supplemented in greater detail with information from the Head account book and other such primary sources not previously available, only enhances their pioneering contributions.

Since the discovery of the account book, research on John Head has been further advanced by the work of Andrew Brunk, Alan Miller, and Christopher Storb. Each is acknowledged for their contributions in attributing furniture to John Head's shop during their lectures at the November 12-14, 1999, "Arts of Baroque Pennsylvania" symposium. See the correspondence in the Jay Robert Stiefel Papers beginning May 10, 1999 (APS) among the organizers and participants of that symposium with reference to the discovery of the Head account book, its significance, relevant account book entries, and Head's relationship to other Quakers. The symposium was held in conjunction with The Philadelphia Museum of Art's October 10, 1999-January 2, 2000 exhibition, "Worldly Goods, the Arts of Early Pennsylvania, 1680-1758." The attribution of the Wistar high chest and dressing table to John Head also appeared in the exhibition catalogue [hereafter cited as Worldly Goods]. See Lita Solis-Cohen, "Seminar Sheds New Light on Early Philadelphia Decorative Arts," Maine Antique Digest (January, 2000), p. 10-A, http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/articles/pma0100.htm. My additional research will be published in the future.

Finally, I owe much to the creative spirit and love of my wife. It is, therefore, to Ann that this work is dedicated.

Jay Robert Stiefel
January 16, 2001

[ Foreword ][ Section 1-2 ][ Section 3-4 ][ Section 5-9 ][ Section 10-10d ][ Section 10e-Conclusion ]
[ The Account Book as Artifact ][ Acknowledgments ]
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