Mahogany's History As Wood for Wealthy

Posted by Bill Esler | Posted: 10/20/2012 12:58PM


click image to zoomMahogany wood species book by Jennifer AndersonJennifer Anderson's Mahogany traces the history of the wood in furnishings.   In the mid-eighteenth century, colonial Americans became enamored with the rich colors and silky surface of mahogany. The colorful history of this tropical lumber is recounted in the recently published book, Mahogany, by Jennifer Anderson ($35, Harvard University Press.)

Seated in a mahogany Chippendale chair, George Washington presided over the Continental Congress. The exotic wood, imported from the West Indies including Jamaica, and from Central America,  displaced local species as the most fashionable in colonial America.

As demand grew, mahogany sources were depleted, and lumber buyers looked to new regions. Mahogany  traces the historic path of the wood from source to sale: covering African woodcutters, including huntsmen who located the  trees in dense rainforest, to the ship captains, merchants, and timber dealers, and the skilled cabinetmakers who crafted the wood.

As the trees became scarce and intense international conflicts arose over this diminishing natural resource, 19th century American furniture makers turned to other materials, surviving mahogany objects were revalued as antiques evocative of the nation’s past.


About the Author

Bill Esler

Bill Esler

Bill Esler, Associate Publisher/ Editor in Chief, Woodworking Network Bill is responsible for editing Custom Woodworking Business and coordinating content for Wood Products , CLOSETS ,, and related newsletters. Bill’s expertise includes using innovative print manufacturing techniques to grow audience engagement, digital printing, purls, QR codes; and lead-generating webcasts, custom websites, and custom digital and print content. Read Bill Esler's woodworking blogs. He can be reached at or follow him on Google+.

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