Many are quick to praise the designer George Hepplewhite and few notice the in discrepancies of his sudden fame. The published guide books, that claim George Hepplewhite as their author, were released after his death. It was not until years after his death that his designs started to receive recognition. Alice, his widow, was responsible for publishing the books. Later editions of his book were released by Alice multiple years after his death. Little is known about the man George Hepplewhite. His death certificate seems to offer the only evidence of his existence. The question rises if “George Hepplewhite” was a man or just a name for Alice Hepplewhite to publish under?
With contemporaries such as Thomas Chippendale producing pieces in a variety of styles Hepplewhite’s famed style is more easily identifiable. Hepplewhite produced designs that were slender, more curvilinear in shape, and well balanced. There are some characteristics that hint at a Hepplewhite design. Look for shorter more curved chair arms, straight legs, shield- shape chair backs, all without carving. The design would receive ornamentation from paint and inlays used on the piece.
The book influenced cabinet makers and furniture companies for several generations. The work of these generations influenced in turn copies of the original designs and variants of them through the 19th and 20th centuries.