The graduated boxes were stored, also like Tupperware, one inside another. In Leigh’s Manhattan shop, the brothers pull apart a set of boxes like Russian matryoshka dolls. They see beauty in the exposed joinery (“swallowtail fingers”) and absence of curlicue decoration. Neither can resist the Gothic arch-shaped pattern formed by the fingers, which are reminiscent of iron strap hinges. “An incredible amount of craftsmanship went into carving each joint,” says Leigh.
The Shakers, however, probably hid the joints from view. “In order to read the inscriptions on some of the boxes, the side with the fingers faced the back,” explains Connecticut dealer David Schorsch, one of the country’s leading Shaker specialists. “The fingers were designed to help keep the wood from cracking,” he adds.