Boscobel contains one of the leading collections of furniture and decorative arts from the Federal period. The furniture, which forms a major component of the Collection, includes pieces by the finest furniture makers of the early nineteenth century such as Duncan Phyfe, Michael Allison, and Charles Honore Lannuier. Within the context of Phyfe-style furniture, the Boscobel collection is among the foremost in the nation.
Highlights from the Collections
In addition to the furniture, the collection of lighting devices is particularly noteworthy. It includes numerous candlesticks, sconces and Argand lamps, a gilded wood English chandelier, and a rare and important pair of 4-light candelabra by John Blades of London, a leading glass manufacturer of the 18th and 19th century.
Also significant, the paintings, silver, ceramics, glassware and other possessions originally owned by States and Elizabeth Dyckman make up an important part of the Collection and play a critical role in the interpretation of the site and a broader understanding of American decorative arts and history. Many of these pieces were purchased by States while he was in England and sent to his wife Elizabeth not only as proof that he had finally been successful in obtaining all the monies that were owed to him but also as tokens of his affection for his wife. States chose the finest and most fashionable goods available in London at the time, including blue and white Jasperware and a Creamware dinner service by Wedgewood.
Boscobel’s Collection also contains fine quality fireplace utensils, paintings by such artists as Benjamin West and John Watson, a large number of kitchen utensils, sewing tools, baskets, boxes, glass objects, textiles and costume, drawings and prints, toys and dolls and other miscellaneous objects. All told, there are nearly 1,000 pieces in the Collection. The majority of these pieces is on display in rooms of the house and can be seen on docent-led tours.
Evolution of the Collection
When Boscobel was restored in its current location in Garrison, the decorators brought in by Lila Acheson Wallace had very little historical documentation about the original contents of the house and set out to create a beautifully-decorated house that suited the taste of Mrs. Wallace. Though it was unquestionably a huge success when it opened in 1961, by the early 1970s, the appropriateness of the choice of objects on display in the house came into question by historic preservationists and museum professionals.
In 1975, an important discovery was made: an 1806 inventory of the Dyckmans’ possessions. Although this inventory was taken before Boscobel was completed, it provided important information about the Dyckmans’ purchases, taste and the house’s original furnishings. Lila Acheson Wallace magnanimously agreed to fund a reinterpretation of the house based on this new documentation, and Berry Tracy, then Curator of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was brought in to research, plan and execute the project. Through analysis of correspondence between States and Elizabeth Dyckman, Tracy deduced that the existing furnishings in the house were inappropriate because though States had sent many small decorative objects to Elizabeth from England, he was not keen on the idea of sending furniture overseas, and therefore, the furniture at Boscobel was most likely purchased in the United States, in the New York area. The English furniture in the collection was sold and important pieces of New York Federal furniture were acquired and the current Collection created. The house was reopened in 1977 to critical acclaim.
In 1989, another important discovery was made, this time, the 1824 inventory of the house, created just one year after the death of Elizabeth Corne Dyckman and one year before the death of her son Peter Corne Dyckman. Further additions to the Collections and alterations to the interpretations of the rooms were made based on the information contained in this document.