Elizabeth A. Davison

John Shearer's trademark loops

Elizabeth A. "Betsy" Davison, Independent Decorative Arts Scholar | Reston, Virginia | phone: (703) 715-7950 | Email: BetsyDavison@aol.com

About Betsy

Betsy Davison, author of The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820: “A True North Britain” in the Southern Backcountry, is an independent decorative arts scholar. The Furniture of John Shearer compiles Shearer’s known fifty-two pieces for the first time, cataloging in detail the thirty-two that she was able to examine. The remaining pieces are recorded in the book with old photographs, thanks to MESDA’s extensive research files. Since the book was published in January 2011, Davison has examined a chest of drawers that was recorded but not photographed and two unknown pieces—a tea table and a tall case clock, bringing Shearer’s total known body of work to fifty-four.

This is a second career for Davison. She wrote her master’s thesis on John Shearer while pursuing graduate studies in the History of Decorative Arts and Design at the Smithsonian/Parsons The New School of Design in Washington, D.C. Graduating in 2009, she guest-curated the exhibit ‘A True North Britain:’ The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820 which ran at the Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Museum in Washington, DC, October 7, 2010-March 4, 2011 and at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, Colonial Williamsburg, April 2, 2011-March 5, 2012.

Davison has lectured widely on Shearer’s message-laden furniture and continues her search for new pieces that might finally reveal this enigmatic craftsman.

Her Book

Book by Elizabeth Davison
"Iconography is a word that doesn't faze Elizabeth Davison. In The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820 her meticulous research not only records what he made, but also unlocks the mind-set of that craftsman in his choice of ornamentation found on so much of his furniture. This is a first rate study of an aspect of American material culture often neglected, the world of the rural craftsmen." -- Charles F. Hummel, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
"The curious, message-laden inlays and inscriptions that are almost always found the furniture of joiner John Shearer make him one of the early South's most fascinating and enigmatic artisans. Scholars have sought the meaning of these words and images for more than thirty years, but with little success. Author Elizabeth Davison has at last cracked the code on Shearer's communiqués, revealing him as a passionate and well-informed follower of international events. Her book on the subject will be required reading for any serious student of southern furniture." -- Ronald L. Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

The Furniture of John Shearer, 1790-1820: "A True North Britain" in the Southern Backcountry is available through the author or through one of the following museums: the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Winston-Salem, NC; the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in Colonial Williamsburg, VA or the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester, VA.

Click the images below for more information.


Betsy provides two methods of purchase:

Mail check and order form to:

Elizabeth A. Davison
PO Box 3147.
Reston, VA 20195-1147