ANTEBELLUM SOUTHERN PARLOR INVENTORIES, 1845–1860
Version of Record online: 2 JUN 2008
Journal of Interior Design
Volume 20, Issue 1, pages 9–26, May 1994
How to Cite
Rahe, L. W. (1994), ANTEBELLUM SOUTHERN PARLOR INVENTORIES, 1845–1860. Journal of Interior Design, 20: 9–26. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-1668.1994.tb00179.x
- Issue online: 2 JUN 2008
- Version of Record online: 2 JUN 2008
OBJECTIVE: This paper contributes to knowledge of interior design in the antebellum American South by identifying patterns of parlor furnishing ownership, use, and characteristics among Greene County, Alabama, slave owners from 1845 to 1860.
RESEARCH DESIGN: A variety of historical documents, primarily probate court inventories (N = 326), were used to provide information on the furnishing of antebellum southern parlors. Primary evidence from Greene County was compared to information on furnishing practices gathered from mid-nineteenth-century American publications to enhance interpretation of the inventories.
ANALYSIS: Primary historical documents were identified and evaluated to establish a body of appropriate data. Electronic quantification systems generated descriptive statistics for the inventory data. Statistics and other findings were compared to evidence from American publications.
KEY FINDINGS: Readily discernible patterns are evident in the occurrence, physical characteristics, and assemblage of furnishings in Greene County parlors. The study revealed that there were differences but also striking similarities between the furnishing practices of southern Americans and those advocated in mid-nineteenth-century American publications. It also found that the total wealth of decedents was related but not directly correlated to the quantity and value of their residential furnishings.
CONCLUSIONS: Quantitative analysis of data on furnishings drawn from probate court inventories provides valuable information for interior design historians. These findings produced information applicable to the recreation of historical environments and the development of conclusions about life among Americans in the antebellum lower South.