History of the Bed
Furniture from the Cadwalader mansion, often mistaken as English or Irish, which we can now demonstrate is due to the aesthetic synergy with the family’s prized collection of London silver, has been discovered in America, England, Ireland and Italy. The majority of the furniture passed by descent through the Cadwalader family to Dr. Charles Cadwalader (1836-1907), great -grandson of John Cadwalader.
In the July 16th edition of 1897 The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin made mention of the furnishings of Dr. Cadwalader's house, the bedrooms reportedly furnished in “old mahogany”28.
In that year, Charles, to the dismay of polite Philadelphia society, married his twenty one year old Irish house maid Bridget Mary Ryan, daughter of a police constable from Tipperary. Life in Philadelphia became uncomfortable so in 1904, Charles, his young wife and their newly born son packed up their home and moved to London.
Much of the house contents were sent to auction with the firm of Davis and Harvey.The catalogue of the sale of the goods in Philadelphia in November 1904 states that they were "To be sold by order of Dr. Chas. E. Cadwalader, prior to his residence in Europe."29
It is known that some of their belongings, including furniture and silver, were taken to England with them.30 Unfortunately both Charles and his young son died in London in 1907.
New research by Ellen Leslie has given fresh insights into the movements of Charles and Bridget Cadwalader when they arrived in England.31 It is now known that they resided at 97 Prince of Wales Mansions, on the South side of Battersea Park, London.
The bed emerged at an auction in the South of England in 2013. The following year the Cadwalader tea table surfaced at the same auction.
A set of Cadwalader chairs emerged at auction in 1974 initially thought to be English. They were, however, recognised by an American collector and matched to a chair in the Winterthur Museum. Their history was traced back through their owner Major Fanshawe, who had inherited the chairs from his friend Nancy Connell, who in turn had purchased them in auction in 1934 from Pallas, County Galway, the estate of the Earl of Westmeath.
An inscription made by a Philadelphia upholsterer active in the city until 1905 proves they were still in the States in the early years of the century. It is assumed that these superbly carved rococo chairs with hairy paw feet were part of the furnishings that travelled across the Atlantic with Dr. Charles and his young wife; part of the "old mahogany" in the bedrooms mentioned by the Evening Bulletin.
In 1907 Bridget Mary inherited the remainder of the Cadwalader possessions from her deceased husband. The chairs do not appear in an early Pallas inventory of 1913 so it can be assumed they were acquired sometime after that date. Their purchaser, The Earl of Westmeath, was a frequent visitor to London, where he sat in the House of Lords.
Charles Cadwalader chose to bring his great-grandfather’s best chairs to start his new life in London. These chairs had sat in the bedroom of his Philadelphia home. He had them reupholstered in Philadelphia before the journey. It is likely that the best Cadwalader four poster, probably recently draped, came with them also. In 1907 a young widow needing to downsize could well have sold the bed along with the chairs and other furniture.
In early 1911 the widowed Bridget Mary Cadwalader moved from Prince of Wales Mansions to 23 Connaught Mansions, where she lived with her spinster sister. The Philadelphia bed with the same distinctive hairy paw feet as the five chairs appears in Herbert Cescinsky's English Furniture of the Eighteenth Century Vol II published in London, 1909-1911.
Cescinsky can be forgiven for thinking the bed was English, he was not privy to the extensive research that has thrown much light on the construction, materials and style of colonial furniture.
All of the available evidence now demonstrates this to be the principal Cadwalader bed, most likely from the workshop of Benjamin Randolph. The bold design and superb carving, likely that of Bernard and Jugiez, remains a testament to the luxurious furnishings of the Cadwalader mansion.