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March 14, 2003

New Colonial Williamsburg Exhibition to Illustrate Diversity of Early American Furniture Styles

The phrases “the height of style,” “in the neatest taste” and “the most popular fashion” have one thing in common: all were used to distinguish fashionable American furniture in the 18th and 19th centuries. In “Different by Design: Furniture Styles in Early America,” Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum will present a fascinating exhibition of eight pairs of furniture objects that reveal the remarkable diversity of styles that existed in early America. The exhibition will run from April 19, 2003 through Sept. 6, 2004.

“Cities were major style centers in 18th- and 19th-century America,” said Tara Gleason, associate furniture curator at Colonial Williamsburg, the restored capital of
18th-century Virginia and the nation’s largest living history museum. “Yet fashion or style varied between towns, cities and regions. At the same time that the demure ‘neat and plain’ style was fashionable in the southern cities of Norfolk and Williamsburg, the more flamboyant Rococo taste was popular in Philadelphia. As regional style centers, each of these cities influenced the areas surrounding them. The goal with this exhibition is to examine the transmission of style from the urban centers to the backcountry and to understand the varied cultural influences on the furniture production of those regions.”

Objects on display will include pairs of chests of drawers, desks and bookcases, chairs, tables, clocks and chests, each of which exemplifies distinctive regional influences.

The comparison of these fashionable pieces will provide a captivating glimpse into how American backcountry furniture was inspired by -- but also diverged from -- the forms, decorations and styles that were popular in larger metropolitan areas.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s award winning DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, supported by the DeWitt Wallace Fund for Colonial Williamsburg, displays the foundation's exceptional collection of English and American decorative arts. Entered through the reconstructed Public Hospital of 1773, the museum is on Francis Street near Merchants Square and is open daily. Hours vary seasonally. Admission is included in any Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or by separate one-day or annual museums ticket. For program information call (757) 220-7724.

Known worldwide as the nation’s largest living history museum, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is a not-for-profit educational institution that operates the restored 18th-century capital of Virginia. Colonial Williamsburg is located 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. off Interstate 64, exit 238. For more information or reservations, call toll-free (800) HISTORY or visit online at

Media Contact:
Sophie Hart
(757) 220-7272