Oval box made by Brother William Perkins for Sister Emily Offord, Mount Lebanon, NY
Maple oval box (a) and lid (b) rims. Two swallow-tails on the box, and one on the lid, secured by copper nails. White pine top and bottom headers. "EM Offord" carved on the lid, the first letters interwoven and overlapping.
As efficient and convenient storage containers, oval boxes played an integral role in the management of space and objects in Shaker communities. While penciled inscriptions or initials are common on oval boxes, those with carved lids are rare. This box belonged to Emily Offord (1847-1896), who lived at the Upper Canaan Family, Mount Lebanon. In addition to the stylized initials carved on the lid, the bottom of the box bears the penciled inscription "Emily Offord/ June 14,1869." The significance of that date is not known; though the box probably predates the lid, Brother William did not join the Shakers until about 1890, and it does not correspond to the birth or death dates of Sister Emily. Nonetheless, it was clearly a fine gift.