Hidden in Plain Sight:
The Material World of Early Springfield


Mahogany sofa

c. 1835-1840

Collection of the Springfield Art Association

The sofa was generally the best piece of furniture in the parlor, which was in turn the best room in the house. Seating furniture was a key component of a respectably furnished parlor, serving a double purpose: first, to display owners' taste and means, and second, to highlight proper behavior by enforcing upright posture and thereby projecting gentility. In the early nineteenth century upholstery was expensive, and sofas such as this one were symbols of wealth and status.

This sofa was owned by Ninian and Elizabeth Edwards. They likely purchased it from a local cabinetmaker after moving to Springfield in 1835. This horsehair-upholstered, mahogany, Late Classical Revival sofa was in the Edwards’ parlor when young Mary Todd lived with them prior to her marriage. It was a silent witness to Mary’s courtship and wedding to Abraham Lincoln.