The use of rococo forms, as opposed to applied ornament, was rare in the American colonies. Philadelphia produced the most organically rococo furniture, followed by New York, Boston, Charleston, plantation-area Virginia, and Maryland. In all of these areas, especially those where the tobacco trade enabled direct ties with England and Scotland, the wealthy imported considerable amounts of English objects as symbols of social status.
The rococo pieces made for John and Elizabeth Lloyd Cadwalader of Philadelphia had a direct relation to southern lifestyle. Elizabeth’s father, an immensely wealthy Maryland plantation owner, exported wheat and tobacco to London, where he purchased through agents the most up-to-date objects, including a silver service given to his daughter at her marriage in 1768, which, in turn, may have inspired some of the carved decoration in their Philadelphia house. Much of their home was furnished after non-importation treaties in the 1760s reduced the availability of imported household furnishings, thereby increasing demand for highly skilled, frequently foreign-trained but locally available craftsmen and designers.
In Boston and NewYork, British-trained frame makers carved, gilded, and painted much of the rococo woodwork, while Charleston also relied on British-and German-trained specialists along with imports.