DROP LEAF TABLES
Drop-leaf tables - made with hinged tops that fold down - have been used in America since the late
1600s. One of the earliest types, the gate-leg table, was common from around 1690 to 1725. Gate-leg tables were generally made of walnut or maple and were solidly built with four turned stationary legs connected by stretchers, Two additional legs swing out
- like gates - to support the leaves.
Around 1710, the butterfly table, an American innovation, was devised. Usually
smaller than gate-leg tables, butterfly tables were named for the wing-shaped leaf supports that pivot out from the stretchers.
Between 1730 and 1790 swing-leg tables hinged along the rails-were the most popular form of drop-leaf table. Although this type was
more graceful-looking than the gate-leg table, it was less sturdy, as it had only
two fixed legs.
The Pembroke table, fashionable from the late 18th century until about 1815, was made with leaf supports that were hinged to the rail, but its I four legs were stationary. These tables were used for breakfast or games.
ANTIQUE TILT TOP TABLES
Not truly a drop leaf table was the tilt-topped table, which could be folded up when not in use. These were another basic feature of early American households. Some large country pieces from the 17th to the 19th century also served as chairs or storage bins.
Smaller versions, used for such specific purposes of serving tea or holding candles, have factional leaves and tripod shaped bases; these range from Queen Anne and Federal Era examples to the more elaborate Chippendale pieces. Some, fitted with a so-called birdcage mechanism, have tops that rotate as well. Tilt-top tables were less common in the Victorian period, except for some highly decorative examples which are highly prized (highly priced too) these days as antique tables..
COLLECTING HINTS & TIPS FOR ANTIQUE DROP LEAF AND ANTIQUE TILT-TOP TABLES
Since all these tables have some sort of movable type top, make certain that the supports or tilting devices are in good working order. Over the years many tabletops, leaves, and drawers have been replaced; check the undersides for authentic discoloration from aging. Also beware of later added hinges and extra screw holes -- indicating a leaf has been replaced -- as well as such obvious signs of later workmanship as circular saw marks.