‘Tis a gift to be simple begins the 18th-century Shaker hymn. The trestle-style dining table is perhaps one of the oldest and simplest furniture forms in existence; the Shakers raised this form into a work of art.Read More
Meet Dr. White
When asked about the origin of the Dr. White’s Chest, Tom Moser recalls, “I remember seeing a stand-alone cupboard with graduated drawers and a sizeable compartment concealed behind two doors on the top at the Shaker Village. I used that as inspiration. The principle was that if a person had a chest of that sort, everything you owned should be able to fit in the chest.”
Throughout the dwelling houses of the Shaker community, the sleeping chambers were furnished with a simple bed, wood stove, a chair, and usually a built-in cupboard to house their personal effects. Many early built-in cabinets were duplicated so they could be utilized from either side of the adjoining rooms. However, some Shaker communities used a moveable, stand-alone chest of drawers or cupboard chest. The cupboard-chest design took advantage of more extensive storage, with doors either on the top or bottom of the case and drawers of varying heights. These freestanding cases took on an architectural grandeur when placed against the simple, plastered walls of the Shaker room.
“When we first started out,” says Tom, “We couldn’t afford cherry or other hardwoods, so everything was crafted from local pine. The first chest was built in 1972 and made of pine.” The back of those first iterations featured pine boards of varying widths, one fixed shelf in the cupboard, a through-door teardrop latch inside the door, and a deep raised panel on the door fronts. Like many of our early designs, we painted the furniture in water-based paint with colors reminiscent of the buttermilk paint used by the Shakers; we painted the fronts and sides of those first pine cases in “Ox Blood Red.”
Over the next four years, Tom adjusted the case’s design to improve its longevity and adopt the emerging Thos. Moser aesthetic. Framed floating panels replaced the plank pine boards in the back to accommodate temperature and humidity fluctuation, leaving no gaps for daylight to peer through. Unlike the unfinished backs of the first chests, the new framed panel construction created a striking back that need not be hidden. Previously added to the carcass after assembly, the feet were now included in the side panels, and adjustable shelving was added to the cupboard space.
Dr. Richard White, an avid supporter of Maine artists, sculptors, and furniture makers, noted Tom Moser’s work. As one of the first Board Certified cardiac surgeons in Maine, Dr. White was responsible for initiating and improving the standard techniques for bypass surgery and patient care in Maine. His interest in handcrafted furniture led him to the Vestry showroom in New Gloucester, where he saw the Ox Blood cupboard chest. Enamored with the design, he commissioned a similar piece, one crafted in cherry and a secret compartment where he could store his apothecary items. Collaborating on the design with Tom, they kept the framework and added a two-shelf concealed compartment with surgical precision, just as the doctor ordered. Upon completion, Tom deemed the new design Dr. White’s Chest.
Although the Shakers never signed their work, every piece they made had a distinctive style or uniquely individual way of shaping joinery or selecting a grain pattern for drawer fronts. This identifying element allows both furnituremaker and admirer a clue into whom the craftsperson was that constructed the piece. For those proud makers and owners of Dr. White’s chest, the secret compartment is the collaborative signature of Tom Moser and Dr. Richard White.
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In 2014, aboard a ferry from Portland, Maine, Tom and Mary Moser headed 185 nautical miles northeast to Nova Scotia. But it wasn’t the scenery that caught Tom Moser’s eye; it was the simple cafeteria chair he was sitting in.Read More