Alumni Authors

As a celebration of our alumni, each month we will highlight a new book written by one of Oxford's North American-based alumni.
For February 2019, our author is Jay Robert Stiefel, Christ Church (1968). Stiefel’s next lecture at the university will be at Christ Church, on April 30, 2019, at 5:00 p.m.

Jay Robert Stiefel, The Cabinetmaker’s Account: John Head’s Record of Craft & Commerce in Colonial Philadelphia, 1718-1753 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2019), cloth, 9.5 x 12.25 in., 320 pp., 100 illustrations, with biographical data and a comprehensive general index of over 3,000 headings. The book was commissioned, underwritten, and published by the American Philosophical Society. The oldest learned society in the United States, APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin, in 1743, in emulation of Britain’s Royal Society.

English joiner John Head (1688-1754) immigrated to Philadelphia in 1717 and became one of its most successful artisans and merchants. However, his prominence had been lost to history until Stiefel’s serendipitous discovery of the significance of his account book at the society’s library. Head’s account book is the earliest and most complete to have survived from any cabinetmaker working in British North America or in Great Britain. Thousands of transactions over a thirty-five period (1718-1753) record the goods and services by which Head, and the hundreds of tradesmen with whom he did business, sought to barter their way to prosperity in the New World. The microcosmic level of detail in the John Head account book fills the documentary void in the lives of Colonial America’s middling classes, giving voice to the historically inarticulate, those often overlooked in more traditional studies. 

The present volume, the culmination of nearly twenty years of research, serves as an essential reference work on 18th-century Philadelphia, its furniture and material culture, as well as an intimate and detailed social history of the interactions among that era’s most talented artisans and successful merchants.

Historian, lawyer and collector Jay Robert Stiefel is an authority on the crafts and commerce of Colonial Philadelphia. A native of that city, he studied history at the University of Pennsylvania and Christ Church, Oxford. Stiefel’s writings and lectures on social history have restored to the historical record many early craftsmen, artists and merchants whose accomplishments had been obscured by the passage of time. In addition to articles on John Head’s account book and furniture, his publications include: Rococo & Classicism in Proprietary Philadelphia: The Origins of the “Penn Family Chairs”; “All in the Family: Joseph Richardson’s Earliest Silver”; “Simon Edgell (1687–1742) ‘To a Puter Dish’ and Grander Transactions of a London-trained Pewterer in Philadelphia”; “Simon Edgell, Unalloyed”; Barnard Eaglesfield: A Prominent Philadelphia Cabinetmaker Revealed”; “‘Beyond expectation, beautiful, graceful and superb,’ Inlaid Miniature Chests of the Philadelphia Circus, ca. 1793”; “Francis Martin Drexel (1792-1863), Artist Turned Financier”; and “‘A Clock for the Rooms’: The Horological Legacy of the Library Company of Philadelphia.”

You can purchase The Cabinetmaker’s Account here.


Are you an alumni author?

If you have written a book which was published within the last three years, or is due to be released soon, please email us the following information.

Your full name
Alumni number (or college/year of matriculation)
Title of book
Date of publication
Link to purchase the book online

We thank you for sharing your books with us, and will let you know if you are selected for a feature in the coming months.

To look back at previous Alumni Authors, please visit the pages below:  

Alumni Author January 2019

Alumni Author December 2018

Alumni Author November 2018

Alumni Author October 2018

Alumni Author September 2018

Alumni Author August 2018

Alumni Author July 2018

Alumni Author June 2018

Alumni Author May 2018

Alumni Author April 2018

Alumni Author March 2018

Alumni Author February 2018

Overhead view of Radcliffe Camera and adjacent colleges