Following his retirement, George Washington was inundated by a constant stream of family, friends and strangers. As many were invited to dine with the family, the Washingtons kept a large quantity of china and cutlery on hand. The inventory taken after Washington's death listed eight "knife cases" used to store utensils. This example, one of a pair, holds fifty-eight pieces of cutlery: two sets of twelve knives and forks for the first course and dessert, two sets of carving knives and forks, and six serving implements. Diners were given fresh cutlery at the start of each course, necessitating multiple sets for each place setting.
Rectangular box-shaped knife case with square front, ovolo corners, and deeply slanting lid; perimeter of case is outlined in a six-layer string inlay that follows the edges of the case top, block front, inner and outer edges of the rear pilasters; the lid is attached to the case with two oval hinges; the interior is fitted with vertical slats that support a pierced board able to accommodate fifty-eight pieces of cutlery; each slot is separated by a single string of dark wood; the interior of the lid features an inlaid roped diamond at its center; the case rests upon a solid wood base that slightly projects from the case wall to form a lip; the ebonized bottom is protected from wear by the three ogee bracket feet, one installed on the front and one at each of the two rear corners.
Mahogany, red pine, fused silverplate on copper, iron
Overall: 15 in. x 8 in. x 11 3/8 in. (38.1 cm x 20.32 cm x 28.91 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Livingston Hartley, 1963
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