The General’s Table

  • Artifact:

    A drop-leaf mahogany table

  • Time Period:


  • Benefactor:

    Wanda Perry, Charles Town, WV, loaned the table to the Museum in 2020.

This drop-leaf mahogany table is from the home of Col. John Francis Hamtramck on East German Street and was called “the general’s table” by its later owners.

Col. Hamtramck was a graduate of West Point and mayor of Shepherdstown. He commanded the 1st Virginia Volunteer Regiment in the Mexican- American War in 1847.

The table has a single-board mahogany top and two single-board mahogany, rule-joined drop leaves that are attached with three counter-sunk hinges on each side. The center board is 54” long and 21” wide and the drop leaves, with rounded corners, have the same dimensions at their widest points.

The four stationary table legs appear to be one-piece construction with a square top about 5” in length under which is a series of ring turnings followed by a round, slightly tapered 14” section; under this are additional ring and bulb turnings with the leg ending in a tear-drop turning about 4” in length. The swing legs are identical except a portion of the top section is cutout so the leg assembly fits snuggly against the inner rail when the leaves are dropped. Overall length of the legs is 27 ¾” and they all appear to be mahogany.

The table, dating to the period 1830-40, has had some alteration over the years. As mention earlier, the swing-leg rails are joined using different methods, on a knuckle joint on one side and the finger joint on the other. Tool marks and some mis-fitting components suggest the knuckle joint is a replacement. The top of the table has been refinished but the remaining elements appear to retain their original finish. The explanation for this could be that the table was originally the center section of a three-part banquet table; a center section with two drop leaves and two outer sections, each with a single drop leaf. The remains of four small tenons can be seen on the outer edge of each drop leaf on this table; these tenons would have fit in mortises on the leaves of the two outer sections of the table set. If the leaves on this table were, in fact, modified (sawed) to give it an oval profile when extended, the newly sawed edges would have to be finished. Matching finishes is an almost impossible task, instead, it would have made sense to refinish the entire table top.

The end rails are of an unidentified wood type with a mahogany veneered face that matches the legs. Applied cock beading is glued and nailed to the underside edge of the end rails and continues into rabbets in the top square section of each corner leg. The end rails are likely tenoned into the stationary corner legs and further secured with a single glue block at each inside corner. The inner side rails are slightly offset from the square portion of the corner legs and are secured to the legs with glue blocks on either side of the rail; whether the side rails are tenoned to the stationary legs could not be determined. The outer rail on each side is made up of three parts: an 18” long stationary rail extending from the corner leg and attached to the inner rail with cut nails driven from the inside; a center 8 1/4” fixed hinge rail, again attached with cut nails; and a 17” long swing rail and leg assembly attached to the fixed hinge rail with a knuckle joint & pintle on one side of the table and a finger joint & pintle on the opposite side. The frame assembly is attached to the center table top with eight screws set in wells.