The true origins of the farm table are something of a mystery. There are various theories about how these tables became incorporated into many American farm homes at the beginning of the 19th century. Perhaps the most believable and well known theory is that American farmers copied the designs that were around at the time, and fashioned tables that would be used for work as well as for eating meals. These tables soon became the central meeting point for the family at dinner, and they were often large enough to sit 8+ people at once. They were designed to seat all members of the family as well as any guests that may have been visiting.
But who made the original designs that were then copied? Many point to three English men: Thomas Sheraton, George Hepplewhite, and Thomas Chippendale. These were the three main furniture makers in England at the end of the 18th century. Of these three, Chippendale published a design book, entitled ‘The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director’. It is thought that editions of this book filtered through to America in the early 1800’s, and furniture makers there began to construct designs similar to those printed, but these tables began to be simplified in order to cut the manufacturing time down.
However, farmers tended to make their own furniture by hand, and they were not trained as cabinet makers. So they began to further simplify the design of the tables they made, and built them to last and survive the constant use they would receive. The result is the sturdy, solid tables we know as farmhouse tables today!