Oval Box

Date: 1800–1900

Culture: American, Shaker

Medium: Wood; Maple, pine

Dimensions: 4 11/16 x 11 5/16 x 8 15/16 in. (11.9 x 28.7 x 22.7 cm)

Classification: Natural Substances

Credit Line: Friends of the American Wing Fund, 1966

Accession Number: 66.10.36a, b


The Shakers made countless small oval boxes like this one for household and workshop use. The body was formed by soaking or steaming a thin strip of wood until it was sufficiently flexible to wrap around a mold for shaping. The external joints are in the form of "fingers" or "swallowtails," which let the wood expand and contract across the grain without splitting. Typical of Shaker workmanship are the uniformly slender slides, symmetrical joints finished with copper tacks, and the tight-fitting lid.