For more than a century, historians have been searching for the true Samuel McIntire (1757–1811) and have been trying to define his role in shaping the cultural heritage of Salem, Massachusetts. Trained as a carpenter by his father, McIntire taught himself the art of architectural drawing and went on to design scores of public and private buildings in Salem, long celebrated for their elegance and beauty. After 1790, however, he made his living primarily as a wood carver, providing ornamental decoration for many of the buildings he designed as well as for furniture and more than two dozen sailing vessels. McIntire was also called upon to carve portrait busts and even a model of a historic pear, commissions that brought him into the realm of academic sculpture. Samuel McIntire: Carving an American Style is the first book to examine the full range of his carving career and to put it into a broader perspective in terms of the work of his contemporaries and other decorative traditions of the Federal period. The book draws on the remarkable collections of the Peabody Essex Museum which owns most of McIntire's architectural drawings and several of his most important buildings, as well as furniture in public and private collections from around the country. Author Dean T. Lahikainen presents a critical analysis of McIntire's carving style and questions some long-held attributions that shed new light on his role as a furniture maker and designer.
The publication accompanies the exhibition Samuel McIntire: Carving an American Style on view at the Peabody Essex Museum from October 13, 2007, through February 24, 2008.
Dean T. Lahikainen is the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Art at the Peabody Essex Museum.
Samuel McIntire was awarded the 2008 Historic New England Book Prize.