Over the past two years a portion of my professional life has been devoted to researching a 19th century rural Maine cabinet and chair maker named Jonathan Fisher. This page will remain linked on the sidebar to serve as a resource for updates and information throughout the course of this project.
Bluehill historian, Brad Emerson has said of the research, “The furniture has been a relative unknown. Joshua’s project is really important. He is taking a scholarly and craftsman’s approach to the study and separating fact from fiction. One of the things that makes the Fisher furniture so important is that everything survived. Fisher writes about making the furniture and who he made it for, the tools he made it with survive. It’s really an extraordinary thing. It’s going to tell us more than we ever knew about Fisher’s position as a cabinetmaker in the community and as someone who made furniture for himself and his neighbors. It’s going to be an important addition to the history of early furniture making in New England and Maine. This is another part of the story. It’s been waiting for someone like Joshua to come along and take it apart and put it together.”
Jonathan Fisher was born October 7th, 1768 in New
Braintree, MA. He spent his youth in manual labor as well as drawing and
painting. As a child, he decided to pursue academic study and eventually
graduated from Harvard for ministerial training. Jonathan accepted a call to
minister in Bluehill, Maine in 1796. Throughout his life and ministry in
Bluehill, he sought to capitalize on the lack of skilled artisans in the frontier
community by making furniture, straw hats, and household items for sale while providing
decorative painting, well drilling, and bookbinding services, to name a few.
Though never formally trained in a cabinetmaking apprenticeship, Fisher’s manual
dexterity and aptitude were remarkably sophisticated for a rural artisan.
|Fisher's desk and bookcase|
Fisher built numerous articles of furniture from 1798 through the 1820s. He fabricated a variety of chairs, chests, stands, tables, and even common domestic items for both personal use and on commission. Fisher’s surviving furniture exemplifies the conservative vernacular taste so prevalent in preindustrial New England. Additionally, among his countless ingenious devices, the windmill which powered his sawmill, lathe, and grindstone is most remarkable.
THE SURVIVING LEGACY
|Fisher's Workshop built in 1811|
My research compiled thus far has been well received and I am now under contract with Lost Art Press to develop a book manuscript. The objective of the book is to tell the story of Jonathan Fisher as a rural multifaceted preindustrial furniture maker. Biographical information will lay the ground work for the heart of the book which focuses on his workshops, tools, and extant furniture. Discussion of his motivations, aesthetic preferences, and clientele will also be presented. Finally, both the furniture and the tools will be displayed in catalog format for a more detailed look at the objects.
|Fisher's "mahogany" grain painting|
If you would like to contact me regarding this research, you can email me at:
See what Christopher Schwarz has been saying about it:
And what Don Williams has said about it:
The Jonathan Fisher House: