by Martin Willis
Not often can so many magnificent pieces travel through time unattributed, but such was the case of many Nathaniel Gould’s masterpieces. It all started several years ago when furniture scholar, Kemble Widmer and Joyce King were contacted by fine antique dealers, C.L. Prickett who recently purchased an outstanding mahogany Chippendale bombe secretary/bookcase. Prickett contracted Widmer & King to try to track down the maker of his acquisition, knowing it was most likely a Boston, Massachusetts furniture maker.
Detectives at Work
Now let’s shift gears and talk about three vellum covered account books sitting unregarded on the shelves at the Massachusetts Historical Society for 174 years. These books were assumed to be nothing more than account ledgers. During their investigation Kemble had a strong hunch that the piece they were researching was by Nathaniel Gould. One evening, it occurred to Joyce King that when all else fails in their research, Google it. Surprisingly in her Google search, Nathaniel Gould account books popped up under the Massachusetts Historical Society. Ironically, this information had only been on the internet for one or two weeks. Joyce immediately called Kem, (as he likes to be called) and told him what she found, and suggested that they might be important. The next day they made their initial trip to the historical society in Boston and after the pieces were brought out for them to inspect, to their surprise, they could tell right away that these written accounts were geared toward Gould’s furniture making. They discovered that the ledgers were a treasure trove of information including Gould’s prolific unknown work. It also became obvious that the fine wood he used was only possible because he controlled the mahogany coming to the shores of Salem.