Description: According to some sources the name was reportedly coined from the brown soft soap produced throughout the region, which lies in a hollow.
“From 1834 to 1928, Soap Hollow craftsmen produced all forms of furniture for the small community [at the northern edge of Somerset County]. The names of seven men identified in census records as “carpenters” appear on furniture made in the valley: John Sala (1819–1882), Tobias Livingston (1821–1891), Christian C. Blough (1828–1899), David K. Livingston (1845–1940), John K. Livingston (1842–1917), Peter K. Thomas (1838–1907), and Jeremiah Stahl (1830–1907)…An 1876 map of Conemaugh Township in Somerset County shows “Carp Sh” (carpenter shop) next to the Stahl residence. The homes of the Bloughs, Salas, Livingstons, and Thomases are shown nearby. It is possible that all Soap Hollow furniture was made in this shop.. Soap Hollow makers stenciled the phrase “Manufactured by...” on the front of their wares. In each case, the “signature” was the creator’s own, as were the stencils. Both of the pieces made by the Livingston brothers are decorated with squirrels, a motif that is unique among almost 300 pieces of furniture.” ———Charles R. Muller, Soap Hollow: The Furniture and its Makers, Canal Press (2002)
These two pieces of furniture bearing John and David Livingston’s names are rare because they represent the work of brothers. They are also two of only 76 known signed examples. They share characteristics of raised-paneled sides and stenciled decoration, including squirrels—unique to these two pieces—and cornucopia. They also share the middle initial “K.” This probably refers to “Kauffman,” their mother’s maiden name, following a naming pattern among Mennonites of Soap Hollow. David K. Livingston was born in Somerset County but was living in Michigan by the time of the 1870 Federal census where his occupation is listed as “carpenter.” The Cupboard-over-Drawers has glass doors above the drawers and appears to be one-of-a kind among hundreds of examples of Soap Hollow furniture. It is dated 1870, but the use of the squirrel stencil and other stenciled elements relate it strongly to the Chest-over-Drawers made in 1874 by his brother John Livingston. This suggests that David K. Livingston may have made this piece of furniture before he left for Michigan, where he remained through the remainder of his life.