William and Mary Highboy Designs

A furniture maker gets leads for the information he needs to reproduce an antique highboy cabinet. August 21, 2006

A few years ago a client requested that I produce a William and Mary Highboy for their home. As my creative abilities are some what limited, and that I choose to replicate known designs, I began a search for a set of plans or measured drawings for such a project. To date, I have not been able to find any. Is there anyone who can help me?

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor A:
I don't know of any plans so to speak. The William and Mary highboys are well known and often copied. They exemplify the cabinetmakers art in the early 1700's - sort of a sampler of what they knew how to do in a single piece, including veneer, turnings and classical moldings. Jeffrey Greene's, "American Furniture of the 18th Century" has an exploded drawing of the construction of a Massachusetts one that is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. There are also notes on construction techniques as well as information on the period. He gives the overall sizes but not measured set of plans.

"Masterpieces of Furniture in Photographs and Measured Drawings" by Verna Cook Salomonsky may have a highboy. You can visit the Yale museum and take your own photos - they have quite a few highboys.

From contributor B:
Lester Margon's "Construction of American Furniture Treasures" includes an "Early Trumpet-Legged Colonial Highboy." FWW's period furniture book discusses highboys, but I don't recall what period.

The Margon book has a 1690 highboy with the traditional 6 leg configuration. The drawing is adequate but lacks construction details if you need them. FWW “Making Period Furniture” has several QA highboys, including the Carlyle Lynch drawing with modestly more detail that would cross over for all but the legs. Gottshall's “Making Antique Furniture Reproductions” has a QA lowboy drawing that shows a bit more detail on the construction. Osburn & Osburn's “Measured Drawings of Early American Furniture” has a 1710-1720 highboy in a four leg configuration with good detail on the legs, some sections for the molding, but little detail on the structure. The design is simpler than the six leg configuration.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

It is said often that the Queen Anne style is a simpler and delicate version of similar furniture to the preceding William and Mary style. So your best bet may be to do a highboy with smaller tear drop style pulls with no keyhole plates (characteristic of William and Mary style) with elaborate neoclassical carvings and turned legs. The cabriole leg was after William and Mary and Very Queen Anne, but a lot of marquetry and scrolling is William and Mary consistent.