Object of the Week: Highlighting the LCHA Collections

Samuel Goodwin’s Table

When the Canby’s auctioned off the contents of the Pownalborough Court House before the property transfer to LCCHA few objects remained behind. One of the most important of these in terms of its historical association is the gray painted table putatively owned by Major Samuel Goodwin. He was one of the lesser Kennebec Proprietors but was also the on-site manager of the courthouse as well as its permanent resident along with the rest of his family.

Goodwin’s table is of a type now classified as a “tavern table”. This nomenclature is of relatively recent origin and can be somewhat misleading. Such tables, made of local woods such as white pine, maple or cherry or a combination thereof, were produced in vast numbers to serve a variety of purposes. The simplest, such as the Major’s table were entirely made of pine. Others were more elaborate with built-in drawers and turned legs. Most had pine tops often single planks such as the Major’s. Usually these had breadboard ends which functioned as battens to prevent the top from warping. Goodwin’s table has the unusual feature of having these battens mitered rather than nailed to the wide pine plank.

These so-called “tavern tables” were ideal utilitarian furniture items found throughout domestic dwellings. They were light and portable and could serve as small dining tables or placed against walls.  Those with drawers could function as gaming tables either for private use or within a tavern. Doubtlessly many such tables were, indeed, found in taverns and sustained heavy use. One hallmark of such use is the wear and tear on the stretchers fastened to the legs close to the floor. Men would rest their boots on these stretchers thus wearing down the wood. The major’s table displays such use suggesting that it was a gathering point for conversation and badinage serious or otherwise. Most such tables were stripped of their original paint. Our table is a notable exception in this respect and remains a humble yet dignified example.

George Keyes, LCHA Collections Committee