Historic Furnishings and Decorative Arts

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The historic furnishings and decorative arts in the museum collections date from the mid-eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. The majority of the furnishings came into the House from the 1830s through the 1870s, acquired by the Longfellow family through purchase, inheritance or gifts.  

The Longfellows’ collection of colonial pieces purchased in the 1840s reveals their reverence for the past.   For them, having old-fashioned furnishings in the house stimulated their awareness of America’s past and the house’s association with George Washington and the American Revolution.   There are numerous items within the rooms from around the world which reflect the family’s cosmopolitan interests.


Haines armchair
Adam Hains, cabinetmaker

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
c. 1792-1793

mahogany and black ash

All the pieces in the furniture collection are from the House and in their historical location within the exhibit rooms. There are over 450 items ranging from vernacular to high-style furniture from the 1730s through 1920s. Theis collection serves as a history of decorative styles over the years starting with William and Mary Transitional and continuing through Chippendale, Federal, Regency, Empire, Rococo Revival, Renaissance Revival, Colonial Revival, and Arts and Crafts.

Major rooms in the house have original furniture made in the United States by Aaron Willard, Abraham Kimball, Jacob Forster, Adam Hains, George Archibald and Thomas Seymour. There are also pieces from England, Germany, Holland, China, France and Japan.  

The items from Japan are mostly lacquered furniture that Charles A. (Charley) Longfellow brought back in the 1870s and used to furnish his “Japanese Room” in 1874.  

Charley Longfellow's christening cup - front
Charley Longfellow's silver christening cup
Hester Bateman, England
c. 1786

This collection consists of approximately 150 pieces of Appleton and Longfellow family silver dating primarily from the late 1780s to late 1860s.   It includes coffee and tea services, pitchers, gravy boats, flatware, salvers and other pieces by:

  • Gorham
  • Jones
  • Shreve, Brown & Co. of Boston
  • Reed & Barton
  • Lows, Ball & Co.
  • Edward Shepard, silversmith, for Jones, Hall & Poor
  • Lincoln & Reed
  • Silversmith Hester Bateman
  • Rogers Bros. Mfg. Co. of Hartford, Conn.
  • Meriden Britania Company.


Ceramic objects in Alice's study
Arts and Crafts ceramics in Alice's study
American, early 20th c.

Left to right:
  • Tankard
  • Fulper bowl
  • Marblehead Pottery bowl with
    Society of Arts and Crafts label

Ceramics and Glass
The collection contains over 250 ceramic and glass objects, both utilitarian and decorative, dating from the mid-eighteenth through the early twentieth century. American, English, French, German, Danish, Japanese and Chinese manufacturers include:

  • Meissen
  • Sevres
  • Delft
  • Staffordshire
  • Doulton Lambeth
  • Royal Copenhagen
  • Arita
  • Sato. 

Of special interest are:

  • A tea service from the 1806 wedding of Fanny Appleton Longfellow's parents, Nathan and Maria Theresa Gold Appleton
  • A Bloor Derby Bowl from the 1830s
  • 135 original eighteenth-century English and Dutch ceramic tiles manufactured by John Sadler, Sadler & Green and others c. 1756-1770 and installed around three bedroom fireplaces.


Library Chandelier
Library chandelier

Henry N. Hooper & Co.
Boston, Massachusetts
c. 1852

Parlor chandelier

Cornelius & Baker & Co.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
c. 1852

Lighting Fixtures
The House retains most of its original 1852 elegant ceiling light fixtures that were installed as gasoliers.  In 1924, electricity was installed in the House and some light fixtures were converted from gas to electricity. Many of the lighting fixtures on the second and third floors date from the 1890s to the 1920s. Most have a more austere appearance with a few having a distinct colonial revival design.

Other lighting devices include:

  • An 1820s Grecian three-arm whale oil Argand Chandelier
  • Eighteenth-century French Rococo candle sconces
  • Nineteenth-twentieth century wall sconces and bracket lamps.

Makers include:

  • Cornelius & Baker & Co., Philadelphia
  • Henry N. Hooper & Co., Boston
  • Johnston Brooks & Co., London.
Parlor wallpaper - 18th and 19th c samples
Parlor wallpaper
18th c. Chinese-style green wallpaper
19th c. floral gray wallpaper

Most of the rooms retain their historic wallpaper which dates from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century.

Fifty additional wallpaper examples have been uncovered throughout the house. Several of these were discovered in one small area under a bell-pull apparatus. This layering of wallpaper allows for the study of the room’s decoration from the 1790s through the early twentieth century. These samples are preserved in a wallpaper study collection.

The green wallpaper in this image was discovered underneath the large mirror shown in the image above.


© 2004 Longfellow National Historic Site