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architectural characteristics, an AUston trait; however, these
elements are much more important factors in White's paintings
than they are in Allston's. The Burning of St. Philip's Church
(fig. 12) could be considered White's fullest piece, for it com-
bines the elements of his earlier historical works with the more
melodramatic properties of Allston's romanticism. For example,
the activity of the panicking people in The Burning of St. Philip 's
Church is much like the action in Battle of Fort Moultrie.
However, White handled the burning of the church in a manner
that can be compared with Allston's Ship in a Squall {iig. 13),
which was painted only a year or two before The Burning. The
interaction of the burning church with the sky is very much like

Figure 13- Ship in a Squall, cl)a/k on canvas, Washington Allston, Ca?nbridge,
Mass., before 1837. 47 1 /4" x 39 1/2". Courtesy of The Fogg Art Museum,
Harvard University. Cambridge. Massachusetts, Washington Allston Trust.

May, 1990


that of the ship and the clouds in Allston's work. The steeple
of St. Philip's pierces the clouds in rough imitation of Allston's
ship masts.

Despite the dominant influences of both his master and
contemporary, White's work differs from both in his choice of
subject matter. His historical paintings and his Charleston street
scenes are unique, for they treat topics and views confined to a
specific region: the South Carolina Low Country. It can be said
that White's background and upbringing had a strong effect on
his work, something he chose not to abandon despite his training
in England and his visits North. It is possible that, while he cannot
be said to have been wildly successful as a painter in South
Carolina, the acclaim he did achieve can be attributed to his
devotion to his native region and his knowledge of its people.

Mrs. Turner is a former MESDA Summer Institute student and a
resident of Salisbury, North Carolina.


1 . George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society 's
Dictionary of Artists in America (New Haven, 1957), 681; Francis W.
Bilodeau and Mrs. Thomas J. Tobias, comps.. Art in South Carolina,
1670-1970 (Charleston, S.C, 1970), 126; Anna Wells Rutledge, Artists
in the Life of Charleston, Through Colony and State from Restoration to
Reconstruction, 1949 (rept., Columbia, S.C, 1980), 136-7.

16 • MESDA

2. "Records from the Blake and White Bibles," South Carolina Historical
and Genealogical Magazine 36 (1935): 14, 42 (hereafter cited as "Records,"

3. Paul R. Weidner, ed., "The Journal ofjohn Blake White," South Carolina
Historical and Genealogical Magazine 42 (1941): 64 (hereafter cited as
"Journal," SCHGM.

4. Ibid., 66; 43 (1942): 38

5. Ibid., 63.

6. Ibid., 62.

7. Charleston Courier, 12 Apr. 1804.

8. "Journal," SCHGM 4y. 103-9.

9. Charleston Courier, 24 Feb. 1806.

10. "Journal," SCHGM \y. 109-12.

11. "Records," SCHGM 36: 46.
12 "Journal," i'CHG^ 43: 168.

13. Walter B. Edgar, ed.. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House
of Representatives 1 (Columbia, S.C, 1974), 299.

14. "Records," SCHGM 36: 48-9.

15. Paul Staiti, "The 1823 Exhibition of the South Carolina Academy of Fine
Arts: A Paradigm of Charleston Taste?" in David Moltke-Hansen, ed..
Art in the Lives of South Carolinians. Nineteenth Century Chapters
(Charleston, S.C, 1979), PSb: 2-3.

16. Paul Staiti, "Samuel B. Morse in Charleston, 1818-21," South Carolina
Historical Magazine 79 (1978): 107-9.

17. Gene Waddell, "'Where Are Our TrumbuUs?"' in Moltke-Hansen, Art
in the Lives, GWb: 8.

18. William Dunlap, History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design
in the United States, 1834 (reprmt. New York, 1969) 2: 471.

19. Bilodeau and Tobias, Art in South Carolina, 155.

20. Rutledge, Artists in the Life, 225.

21. "Records," SCHGM 37: 69.

22. Rutledge, Artists in the Life, 136.

23. The information about the historical events and legends discussed here was
gleaned from a rough draft of a catalogue of artworks belonging to the
Senate that will be published in the future. Courtesy Office of the Senate
Curator, United States Senate Commission on Art and Antiques,
Washington, D.C.

24. Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism,
Idealism, and the American experience, 2nd ed. (New York, 1979), 37.

25. Novak, American Painting, 40.

26. Edgar Preston Richardson, Washington Allston: A Study of the Romantic
Artist in America (Chicago, 1948), plates 10, 46.

May, 1990 17

Figure 1. Plate VI of A Harlot's Progress, engraving, William Hogarth, London,
1752. Dimensions not recorded. This plate, part of a series of engravings, depicts
the wake for Moll Hackabout. From Sean Shesgreen, ed.. Engravings by Hogarth
(New York, 1975).



Coffin Making and Undertaking in Charleston
and its Environs, 1 703 - 1 820

Bradford L. Rauschenberg

On 5 November 1705, the estate of Mrs. Elizabeth Sindrey
was charged £73.13.3 for her funeral. Five years later a charge,
also against her estate, for £73.18.00 for 155 days of "work at
the New houses" by Abraham "Lesware" (Lesueur), joiner,
established a price comparison which demonstrates the expense
of funerals and their corteges.' The Sindrey estate account book
provides a rare glimpse of an early eighteenth-century Charleston
funeral and thus is offered in its entirety:

Novemr 5 To Cash paid two women Laying out her

Corps andAttendance at her funerall 2.00.0

To a winding Sheet and a pr thread Stockings .1.10.3

To a Coffin & ca from Mr. Lesware 7.10.0

To a quarter Cask of wine of Coll. Logan 6.05.0

To 10 gall, more at 6/3 pr Galln 3.02.6

To 8 bottles of Clarret from Mr. Chicken 1.05.0

To 661b Sugar to burn the Wine [torn]/ 2 2.01.3

To Spice for ditto of Sundrys 2.00.0

To Cash paid Susan Sawyer for burning ditto . .0.10.0

To ditto paid Sundrys for gloves £.S.D

Mr. John Acuum 23 pr mens 4 pr Wom[ens] [torn]0.07.0

Mr. John Breton 9 pr womens at 72pr 1.19.41/2

Mr. Chevalier 2 pare at 6 ryals 0.07.6

Mrs. Murreau 8 pare at 5/ 2.00.0

Mrs. Dawson 34 pares Sev[era]l Prices 7.08.11/2

May, 1990 19

Mrs. Cutler 22 pares at 4/ pare 4.08.0

Mrs. Mazgarot Lea 16 pares at 5/ 4.00.0

Mrs. Bisset 35 pares at 2/6 pr 28.17.6

To 28 yards of Alamode for 8 Scarves for the Minister

and Doctor & 6 bearers at 8/9 pr yard 10.10.

To 6 yards of Narrow black Ribbon to tie the

Scarves up at 7 1/2 pr yard 0.03.0

To Cash paid Mr. Peter Manigault for his Cart and horses

and his own attendance to carry the Corps up to his

Plantation 1.10.0

To the use of a Pall 0. 10.0

To 25 lb of white bisket to carry to the

plantation 0.15.0

To pipes to bacoe and Rosemary 0.10.0

To Cash paid Sundrys for Attendance 1.00.0

To ditto paid the Minister his Attendance and

horse hire to the Plantation 2.00.0

To the Sexton for Ringing the bell and digging

the Grave 1.00.0

[Total] £73.00. 32

A satirical view (fig. 1) of an early eighteenth century wake
depicted in William Hogarth's series of engravings entitled "A
Harlot's Progress" gives an idea of how Mrs. Sindrey's funeral
was conducted. The engraving also portrays much of the funereal
equipage listed above and that will be mentioned in this study:
a coffin, coffin hardware, bier stools, a coat of arms, a coffin plate,
mourning rings, gloves, scarves, alcohol, and a mourning hat.
It also further illustrates some items whose significance can only
be surmised. On the stool are what appear to be drumsticks for
the mourning procession; on a plate on the floor and in the hand
of the woman on the left are what seem to be feathers, perhaps
to revive any unconscious females. Smoldering feathers were used
at that time in the same capacity as smelling salts.

Unfortunately, there are very few Low Country documents
that describe funeral ceremonies. What does survive has been
found in wills as personal requests. For example, in October 1759
Joseph Arden specified that: "my pall [fabric coffin covering not
fixed to the coffin] be held up by six maidens who shall have
the customary requisites given them, and also that a general
invitation be sent through the parish, and that gloves be given
to such parishioners as shall attend my funeral."^ Frances Legare's

20 . MESDA

will of November 1800 also contained funeral instructions that
her "coffin be made of cedar and covered with superfine black
broad cloth and instead of a Pall that my friend Thomas Doughty
do buy three yards of superfine black broad Cloth to cover my
Coffin with to the Grave, then to be given to Job Palmer."
William Rutledge's request in his will of 12 March 1822 was even
more explicit about his entire funeral: "No invitation, no notice
to be taken of my death in newspapers, no crape or mourning
or any of that nonsense, and to be conveyed to my grave as early
as possible at the beating of the morning drum, coffin of
Northward pine covered with black baise.""* These entries are
unique for their respective periods, but not much about coffin
making can be gleaned from them. The actual mentions of the
coffin in the first three were not descriptive, and both Mrs.
Legare's and Rutledge's only touch on the types of wood they
wanted used. After the examination of other types of records,
however, a picture of the various selections of coffins and services
available in Charleston before 1820 did emerge.

The Sindrey account of 1705 was the earliest Charleston
documentation of a joiner — "Mr. Lesware" — being paid for
a coffin he undoubtedly made. What the "& ca" in addition
to the coffin was will probably never be discovered. It is difficult
to determine whether it was material applied to the coffin —
crest, fabric, hardware — or Lesueur's supplying or renting the
bier as part of the service rendered. Lesueur also could have
somehow been involved with the winding of the sheet around
the body or other similar processes which are not understood
today, for the role of a joiner as an undertaker in 1705 is unknown.
What can be gleaned from the records are the identities of the
coffm makers, woods, appointments, costs, and perhaps some
of the funeral process.

Estate records are the primary sources for charges for coffins
and, at times, to whom payments were made. For example,
William Watson was paid £42 for a coffin he made for John Smith
in May 1727. The details of coffin quality were not revealed nor
were the possible services Watson offered with the coffin. He
apparently did more than simply supply coffins. In August 1736
his widow announced the continuation of her late husband's
business, stating that she had: "a considerable stock of fresh goods
of all sorts necessary for Funerals, and Workmen fully capable
of making Coffins and Cabinet- ware. ' ' The fresh goods probably
referred to fabrics, gloves, and possibly rings and coffin hard-
May, 1990 21

ware. Further evidence of Mrs. Watson's business was found in
the estate records of Wilham BeUinger, Sr., planter, from which
Mrs. Watson was paid £11.30 for a coffin on 9 April 1744. Charles
Warham, a Charleston joiner and cabinetmaker, in an advertise-
ment of 14 August 1736, also emphasized the fact that Watson
had been a full participant in preparing a funeral when he stated
in a postscript: "I intend likewise to prepare all Things necessary
for and take care at Funerals in the same Manner as Mr. Watson
deceased did, for all such as think proper to apply themselves
to me for that purpose. "^

John Bedon was another woodworker whose concerns included
coffin production. He announced in the South Carolina Gazette
on 28 February 1735/6 that he "being lately free [of his appren-
ticeship] now undertakes for himself, House Carpenters and House
Joiners work, and also makes Coffins." Later, in September 1736,
he advertised again and added that with his coffins he had: "the
newest fashion'd furniture, and [the public] will find things
proper for Funerals both for Town and Country, and will give
his attendance."*^ Giving his attendance probably meant per-
forming undertaker functions. Edward Weyman, cabinetmaker
and upholsterer, was documented in December 1766 as per-
forming such duties when he was paid for "a coffin bell, pall
& carriers & ca."^ The manner in which the carriers were listed
in the inventory suggests that they were not persons hired to
transport the coffin, but most likely were portable bier stands
such as those used in English churches at that time. As a form,

Figure 2. Bier stand. East Brent, Somerset, England, 1734. Oak. HO A 21 1/2",
W'OA 86 1/2", DO A 24". MESDA Research File (MRF) B- 332.



Figure ^. Bier stand East Brent. Somerset. England. 1642. Oak. HO A 21 5/8'
WO A 78 1/2". DOA 21 1/4". MRF B-286.

Figure 4. Bier stand. Kedington. Suffolk. England. 1680-1700. Oak. HO A 19
1/4". WVA 77". DOA 22". MRF B-154.

this type of stand (figs. 2,3, and 4) has fixed legs and hand-
grips at each end which can be shd out for carrying. Frequently,
two separate joined stools were used as an alternative to the stand;
this was being done in England in the seventeenth century. In
his diary Samuel Pepys related how he saw his "uncles corps in
a coffin, standing upon joynt stools in the chimney in the hall;
but it begun to smell, and so I caused it to be set forth m the
yard all night and watched by two men."^ Since the plural form
was cited in Weyman's case, it can be assumed that joined stools
were the carriers charged to the estate. A cypress stool (fig. 5)
with a Brewton/Manigault family history, thought to be one of
these types of stools, has survived and is in the MESDA collec-
tion. The height of this stool, twenty-four inches, its top affixed
with glue blocks, and the lack of support for its oval edge all lead
to the assumption that the stool was not a seat. The S-shaped

May, 1990


Figure y Joined stand, Charleston, 1720-30. Cypress. HO A 24 3/4", WO A
13 1/4", 11 3/4". MRF S-1583, accession 2414-2.



hand-hold in the top (fig. 5a) is the same design as that of stools
found in Ftench churches. ^

Evidence for the use in Charleston of such stools was found
in the July 1749 inventory of Archibald Young, carpenter, which
contained "2 Coffin Stools £1" along with coffin furniture and
carpenters' tools in the shop.'° Their relatively low value suggests
that they were not new, but instead were part of the shop equip-
ment. Therefore, supplying coffin stools was probably part of the
funeral services offered by Young. Additional support for this
concept appears in the listing of "To 2 Coffen Stools . . . .£2"
along with shop furniture and coffin furniture in the April 1760
inventory of Thomas Stocks, cabinetmaker. When Michael
Muckenfuss, another cabinetmaker, died in 1808, his estate con-
tained "2 Coffin Stools. . . . $1" along with shop benches, tools,
and coffin furniture and boards. In March 1815, yet another
cabinetmaker's inventory, that of Hance Fairley, listed "1 pr.
Coffin Stools . . . $1," an indication that stools were still being
used in the nineteenth century. ^^

Figure 3a. Detail of Figure 5.

May, 1990


Most of the early-to-mid-eighteenth century Charleston records
cited so far document instances in which joiners made coffins and
acted as undertakers. During that period, joiner was an ambiguous
term which could be applied to anyone involved in the wood-
working trades: carpentry, ship joining, house joining, and
cabinetmaking, and it was only when these joiners stated in adver-
tisements that they made furniture that they could be identified
as cabinetmakers. When the term cabinetmaker began to be an
accepted trade name in Charleston, about 1760, part of its
definition at that time appears to have included coffin making
and undertaking.

An example of a post- 1760 cabinetmaker being involved in
the entire funeral process was John Frew's October 1795 adver-
tisement that he had noticed that: "As no person in this city has
ever publicly offered to take charge of, and conduct funerals, he
offers himself in that line" in addition to his cabinetmaking
business. In 1809 "Jacob Sass & Son," cabinetmakers, added to
the end of a notice that: "If any person within the vicinity of
Charleston should at any time have the misfortune of loosing any
of their family, the subscribers will be able to furnish them with
ready made COFFINS at the shortest Notice, of any size
whatever. "12 "Ready made" and "any size whatever" are key
phrases which indicate the undertaking roles played by mid-to-
late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century cabinet-
makers. That Sass and Son had coffins already made and in their
shop implies that they were more than cabinetmakers who
occasionally, upon request, made coffins, unlike Thomas Elfe,
who did not have coffins of varying sizes on hand in his shop.
This is evident in the entry recorded in his account book in 1771
that a coffin was "returned which was made by order too little. " '^

Charleston upholsterers working after 1760 also contributed
to funerals. The earliest recorded upholsterer's notice mentioning
funerals was that of Edward Godier which appeared in the
Charleston Evening Gazette of 21 September 1785. After a
lengthy description of his abilities, a rider to his announcement
stated: "Funerals compleatly furnished." In 1792, at the end of
a long advertisement, Thomas Bradford, upholsterer, added:
"FUNERALS furnished." In 1793 the firm of Worthington and
Kirby advertised "Funerals furnished on the shortest notice."'^

Charleston church records verify that the upholsterers who
advertised their abilities to "furnish funerals" were used in that


capacity. For example, on 31 March 1800, the Independent
Congregational (Circular) Church incurred expenses for putting
both the old building and the new building in mourning for the
death of George Washington. Various merchants in Charleston
supplied such goods as "8 Yds. Superfine Black B[road] Cloth
hung on the Two Pulpits," cashmere, fine black cloth, "34 yds.
Durant," black crepe, broad and narrow ribbon, sewing silk, wire,
thread, tape, pins and tacks. Joseph Worthington, of Worthington
and Kirby, was then paid, on the same day, "For workmanship
for preparing and fixing the above mentioned Mourning both
Churches 50 Dols.- 76.5.1."'^John Watson, also an upholsterer,
and his partner, cabinetmaker John Anthony Woodill, were paid
$23.5.4 by the church of St. Michael's on 1 August 1800 for
putting that edifice in mourning, and again on 28 March 1804
$3.10 "for putting the pulpit &[c.?] in mourning on the death
of Doctor Purcell." Thirteen years later, on 7 August 18 17, John
Smith, another upholsterer, was given a treasurer's voucher from
St. Michael's for dressing the church in mourning. The amount
he was paid was undisclosed.'*^ From these accounts, it appears
that the Charleston upholsterer's involvement in the funeral
process was directed more towards furnishing decoration rather
than actually contributing to the making of the coffin.

Cabinetmakers and upholsterers were not the only members
of the Charleston community who supplied dress, coffins,
processions, and other equipage for funerals. On 20 December
1802 the board of the Charleston poor house passed an account
to Calhoun and Shrewsbury, carpenters, "For fifty coffins 150
Dollars." John Pickering Lloyd, a Charleston Venetian blind
maker, advertised in November 1819 that, as well as making
blinds, he furnished "Funerals . . . of every description, (as usual)
at the shortest notice."'^

As a funeral also involved many items other than the coffin
and body, it was not uncommon for merchants to have- a hand
in the undertaking process. An indication of all that went into
a burial was given in the Sindrey Account, and it can be inferred
that much of what had been used for her funeral had been
acquired through merchants. Evidence of this nature was also
found in a November 1755 letter to London merchants Augustus
and John Boyd from Henry Laurens concerning the death of Henry
Chapone, their Jamaica agent, who was buried in Charleston.
Chapone came to Charleston without funds, and his passage to

May, 1990 27

Charleston as well as his funeral was financed by the Laurens
mercantile firm. The letter briefly described the funeral, stating:

We gave away at Mr. Chapones Funeral Scarfs to the
Bearers, Clergy, & Doctors also to two Captains of his
Majestys Ships with Gloves to each. This is what is always
given here by People of any tolerable rank except those
to the Captains of the Men of War. The Guests invited
were the Gentlemen of any figure in trade & the masters
of Ships in the Harbour as they all put their Colours half
mast. We think we did not go to one Shilling expence
further than was consistent with decency. ^^

In 1764 the merchant James Poyas recorded the sale of goods
to the estate of Elizabeth Snipes for her funeral. The Snipes funeral
preparations purchased from Poyas, by a Mr. Snipes, on 19
September were: "4 1/2 yds Swanskin (for lining the Coffin) a
13/9 . . . £3.1.10. 2 1/2 yds Sup[e]r fine bik broad Cloath a
£7.10/ . . . 18.15," as well as bread, cheese, wine, dozens of
black gloves, scarves, and handkerchiefs for men, women, and
children, and other mourning apparel such as black fans, ribbon,
shoes, buttons, stockings and shoe buckles. Snipes spent a total
of £318.4.6 at the Poyas store on Elizabeth Snipes's funeral.
Another of the Poyas day books revealed that the store paid
Farquhar McGillivray, a joiner and carpenter, £52 for Elizabeth
Snipes's coffin on 19 September 1764. Other accounts recorded
in the four surviving James Poyas Day Books (1760-1766) indicated
that coffins were being purchased via the merchant. '^ Coffins
apparently often were bought through a store and therefore
probably were made to order, which suggests that merchants were
agents for coffin makers. Reverend Samuel Warren, when his wife
died, did not purchase a coffin through the Poyas store, but did
pay for "a sett Coffm Furniture . . . £9.6.3," along with funeral
accessories, which totalled £123. 7. 6. 2° From this March 1765 sale
it could be inferred that Warren selected the coffin furniture for
his wife's coffin and then gave the set to the coffin maker.

The undertaking roles of Charleston's merchants were more
often subject to the vicissitudes of the city's political and social
climates that those of most cabinetmakers. The Townshend Act
of 1767 and other related acts passed by the English Parliament
placed a tax burden on the colonies which was felt: "in the
Purchase of all Sorts of Goods imported from Great Britain."

28 ' MESDA

As a result, Charleston, like other colonial cities, formed an
association which, on 28 June and 22 July 1769 under the guidance
of Christopher Gadsden, formed anti-importation resolutions that
opposed the acts. These resolutions outlined the British and other
foreign goods to be boycotted by colonial merchants, mechanics,
and independent purchasers and encouraged the promotion of
"NORTH AMERICAN MANUFACTURES in general, and those
of this Province in particular." In one of the resolutions, the
participants agreed to "use the utmost OECONOMY, in our
Persons, Houses and furniture; particularly, that we v/ill give no
MOURNING, or GLOVES or SCARVES at Funerals. ' '^^ The effect
of the resolutions on funerals, and on the merchants who trafficked
in the mourning trade, can be found in death notices such as
that of Solomon Legate in November 1774:

Last Saturday died, aged 71, Mr. Solomon Legare, a native
of this Province .... Neither Scarves, gloves or Mourn-
ing were used at this Funeral, altho' he left a very
numerous Train of most affectionate relations: who have
thereby conformed to the 8th Article of the Association
entered into by the late Congress, in Behalf and on the
part of the Colonies. ^^

On 19 December of that year, a similar disclaimer appeared
in the South-Carolina Gazette: "The Remains of Mrs. Mary Elliott
(the Wife of the Hon. Barnard Elliott) . . . were interred . . . Few
have left more Relations, few had more Friends, than this most
amiable and excellent Lady, yet the latter clause of the 8th article
of the Continental Association was strictly adheared to at this

After the American Revolution, and before the passing of
Thomas Jefferson's embargo of 1808, funerals apparently returned
to their former lavish states, and merchants were again called upon
to answer the accompanying need for mourning gear. In October
1806, Hill's Ware House, at 26 Church Street, advertised:

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