Was There Really a Mr. Hepplewhite?

By Ralph and Terry Kovel | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 22, 1993 | Go to article overview

Was There Really a Mr. Hepplewhite?


Ralph and Terry Kovel, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Dear Ralph and Terry: I know that Chippendale style was named for Thomas Chippendale, a famous English furniture manufacturer and designer of the 18th century. Was there a Mr. Hepplewhite who designed and made Hepplewhite furniture?

Furniture styles are named in many ways. Some, like Chippendale, are known by the designer who became famous creating the new style. Some are named for a ruling monarch like Queen Anne or Louis XIV. Others have names like Mission that were used as advertising gimmicks to explain the new look.

There was a Hepplewhite workshop in England, although there are no existing pieces that can be firmly attributed to Mr. Hepplewhite. In the 18th and early 19th centuries few pieces were signed or labeled. Hepplewhite is mentioned in a trade directory in 1786. The name was misspelled as Kepplewhite & Son.

George Hepplewhite died in 1786. His widow, Alice, and his son probably kept the business going. The famous book of designs was not published until 1788, and was revised several times. The book has been the inspiration for many cabinetmakers. Pieces in the Hepplewhite style are still being made.

*****

Dear Ralph and Terry: I have a Satsuma vase that my mother used as a lamp base. She had a hole put in the back of the base so the wiring could go inside. I want to sell the vase, but a dealer said the value is low because of the hole. Could I have it repaired?

Many old vases were drilled to be used as lamp bases in the 1930s. Satsuma was not a popular collectible until the 1980s. Prices for large vases increased to the hundreds, then thousands, of dollars. A hole lowers the value by at least 50 percent. It is possible to have the hole filled, but a repair also lowers the value. There seems to be no way to recover the money your mother lost by drilling the vase.

*****

Dear Ralph and Terry: I dug up a jar with a tin lid and embossed letters on the glass. …

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