It is no secret that New Orleans and the surrounding region have long been a hotbed of creativity, giving rise to the careers of many artists, musicians, and writers, but little attention has been given to the remarkable decorative arts and craftsmen of this area. From the early 18th through the mid-19th centuries, distinctive cabinetmaking traditions developed in the Mississippi River valley through a melding of French, Anglo-American, Caribbean, Canadian, and African influences. Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadian Furniture, 1735 1835 stands as a tribute to the region s cultural diversity and remarkable artistry.
Louisiana s earliest colonial furniture hewed closely to French models. Yet an influx of immigrants at the turn of the 19th century refugees from the Haitian Revolution, Anglo-Americans drawn south and west in the wake of the Louisiana Purchase had a striking impact on the region s crafts. The fusion of acculturated European craftsmanship and contemporary Anglo-American fashion produced a novel aesthetic in the New World a Louisiana Creole style. And while highly refined cabinet work emerged from cosmopolitan New Orleans, another tradition was developing to the west, on the Acadian prairies. Informed by distant memories of France and recent memories of Canada, modified by Louisiana s climate and available materials, Acadian furniture stands alongside Creole craftsmanship as an enduring reflection of a time, a place, and a people.
Jessica Dorman is director of publications, marketing, and student education at The Historic New Orleans Collection. She earned her PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard University and has taught American literature and American Studies at Harvard, Penn State Harrisburg, and Trinity College (Hartford). At THNOC, where she has been on staff since 2004, Dorman has edited numerous award-winning books and has served as an exhibition curator for Occupy New Orleans! Voices from the Civil War (2013) and Furnishing Louisiana: Creole and Acadian Furniture (2012). From 2006 to 2015, she was associate editor of the Tennessee Williams Annual Review.