Blanket chests with lift tops were among the earliest forms of household furniture made in Germanic communities in America. They were often presented to a bride as part of her dowry, leading to the nomenclature “dower chest” that is often applied to this type of low chest. This example was almost certainly made upon the occasion of a marriage or engagement. Anne Beer’s name is inscribed in ornate lettering over the date “March the 18 1790.” Below, star-shaped flowers spring from a pair of overlapping, handled urns, a time-honored image suggestive of the joining of two family lines in a fruitful union. The pair of opposing mermaids, who hold floriated vines, provide further symbolic content.
In German folklore, the mermaid is associated with childbirth and domestic households. These mermaids wear coral necklaces for protection; knotted embellishments, which abound on this painted chest, add to the notions of never-ending love and protection. The floral motifs are repeated on the side panels, combined with dark feathers or ferns whose spines are a series of light-colored dots. The chest features typical dovetailed construction, but what appear to be unusual feet are actually end panels that would have flanked two side-by-side drawers.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Anne Beer Low Blanket Chest," in American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 299-300.