In December 1796, the Maryland Senate commissioned cabinetmaker John Shaw to provide “twenty-four handsome commodious chairs to be made for the accommodation of the senate, amongst which shall be a presidential chair.”
The following year, Shaw delivered the 24 upholstered armchairs, as well as a desk for the president, and 10 additional senator’s desks. While this furniture dates to 1797, recent research suggests that the desks may have been very similar in design to the earliest furnishings used by the Senate after it occupied this room in 1779. The number “1” inlaid on the center of the scalloped gallery strongly suggests that each of the 14 senator’s desks were individually numbered.
The 1797 furniture remained in use in the Old Senate Chamber until sometime between 1837-1845.
Born in Scotland, Shaw arrived in Annapolis by 1770 and established a large shop overseeing the work of journeymen and apprentices. Shaw’s Senate furniture exemplifies the Neoclassical, or Federal, decorative style, characterized by geometric inlay and straight tapered legs.