Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


Center table

c. 1860

Collection of the Springfield Art Association

Middle-class antebellum Americans idealized the family circle above all else, and the center, table was, in architect Andrew Jackson Downing’s words, “the emblem of the family circle.” As such it was one of the most significant pieces of furniture in the antebellum American home.

In Colonial America the family would work in close proximity as an economic unit, either on a farm or an artisan’s shop connected to the house. In antebellum America, work started toseparate from the home. Families were now bound by ties of affection rather than economic necessity, and they carved out space and time within their homes to enjoy each other’s company. The sitting or family room was the focus of family activity in the house, and the center table was the focus of family activity in that room. This table belonged to Benjamin and Helen Edwards.