American demand for exotic Chinese imports increased with the onset of direct trading between China and the United States in 1784. While President, George Washington took advantage of the wide variety of Chinese luxury goods arriving in New York and Philadelphia and purchased several lacquerware pieces, likely for use by Martha Washington or one of her granddaughters: Martha, Eleanor, or Eliza Parke Custis. This box was originally part of a larger set within the drawer of a dressing glass which descended in the family of Eliza Parke Custis Law. A pincushion once filled the center of its lid.

See also the dressing glass W-315 and boxes W-543/A-C and W-221/B-H.


Shaped, spool-form box with independent lid decorated with gilt over dark brown or black lacquer. Cover features a circular well at center to which a pincushion was originally attached. Guilloche border around lip of well with floral sprigs in four corners. Floral and leafy sprigs on sides. Interiors and outside bottom lacquered.






Cypress, lacquer, gilt


Overall (H x W x D): 1 3/4 in. x 3 3/4 in. x 3 5/8 in. (4.45 cm x 9.53 cm x 9.21 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. George R. Goldsborough, Vice Regent for Maryland, 1882
Conservation courtesy of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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