Rundlet-May House

Serpentine Chest

James Rundlet’s thorough documentation of his personal finances gives us rare insight into the furnishings and decorations he chose for his Portsmouth mansion on Middle Street. His account ledger records the purchase of this “Bureau & handles” (note the extra set of carrying handles on the sides) from the cabinetmaker Langley Boardman. Its price of $28 exceeded that of any other single object and reflects the attention to detail on construction and ornamental elements such as the inlaid fan accents on the front, and the brasses were imported from England. Imported mahogany was a product of overseas trade. There was a strong desire of the new American elite to own furniture made of imported materials, and such purchases were procured through trade industries dependent on the enslaved.