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Why is it called a "Mule"?

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Forum topic by TedM posted 10-22-2009 12:26 PM 4676 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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TedM

2002 posts in 3193 days


10-22-2009 12:26 PM

I was just looking at Boydman’s beautiful Eleven Drawer Mule Dresser and it struck me, “Why are these dressers called ‘mule’? Does anyone know?

These dressers or chests are wider than they are tall and sometimes have a hinged top. I believe they are common to Amish and Arts and Crafts styles.

The only thing I can think of is that they can ‘carry’ a lot, like a mule. However, more than likely, the word ‘mule’ meant something more or different in times past.

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit http://www.woodworkersguide.com and sign up for my project updates!


16 replies so far

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Tim Dahn

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#1 posted 10-22-2009 12:32 PM

I think it is a Mule dresser is when it’s wider than it is high.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

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GMman

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#2 posted 10-22-2009 01:08 PM

Mule Chest: A chest is commonly wider than it is high and deep. A mule chest has drawers in its base and a hinged top. beneath which there are either two short drawers or one long one. This form, introduced in England in the 1600 was popular for 100 years in England and colonial America.

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TedM

2002 posts in 3193 days


#3 posted 10-22-2009 01:16 PM

Methinks I wasn’t clear. I know what a Mule Dresser is. I’m wondering why it is called a “MULE”. :)

Is it simply because it was used to carry something or did, or does, the word mean something else?

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit http://www.woodworkersguide.com and sign up for my project updates!

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patron

13535 posts in 2802 days


#4 posted 10-22-2009 01:29 PM

maybe ‘cause it’s hard to move around ,

like a mule ?

and it packs allot of stuff .

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

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Sawdust2

1467 posts in 3548 days


#5 posted 10-22-2009 01:34 PM

Interesting.
I checked Wikiipedia to no help.
Women also wear shoes called mules.

Might be derivative of something wider than taller?

Lee

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

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GMman

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#6 posted 10-22-2009 02:01 PM

Why shoes are called alligator,and crocodile?

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mtkate

2049 posts in 2786 days


#7 posted 10-22-2009 02:32 PM

Aren’t alligator shoes so-called because they were made of alligator? Just like alligator bags.

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Tim Dahn

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#8 posted 10-22-2009 02:46 PM

Found this on http://www.artisansofthevalley.com/chests1.html The drawers in a mule chest were used to store slippers called “mules” by the colonists. A mule drawer was a single drawer at the base of the chest.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

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Bob #2

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#9 posted 10-22-2009 03:46 PM

I wonder if they were originally made to be packed by a Mule to a destination and thus made in two separate parts?

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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TedM

2002 posts in 3193 days


#10 posted 10-22-2009 04:06 PM

Timbo, great find! Which leads to the next question, what are mule slippers… LOL! However, found this on Wikipedia: “Mules are shoes or slippers with no fitting around the heel (i.e. they are backless)”

Boy, they must have had a lot of them to need some a large chest? :)

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit http://www.woodworkersguide.com and sign up for my project updates!

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Bob #2

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#11 posted 10-22-2009 04:22 PM

Another definition suggests :
“Mule chest [implying a hybrid] is collectors’ jargon of no validity for a chest with drawers. ”
It could account for the name given to the “crocks” of the day as well. <g>

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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SKFrog16

661 posts in 2661 days


#12 posted 10-22-2009 06:53 PM

The first explanation is grounded in the evolution of English furniture in the17th century. At that time the main piece of furniture in most common households was a relatively plain wooden box with a lift top, called a coffer, in which the family’s clothes, linens and daily articles were stored. A simple, elegant solution to the housekeeping neatness problem that could also function as a tabletop when the need arose.

But there was a drawback. If you needed something on the bottom of the chest you had to either go digging to find it or remove everything in the box, a problem with just about all chest-type storage arrangements. The technology of drawer construction was in its infancy in the early 1600s and there was no such thing as a complete “chest of drawers” until much later. However, a few ingenious craftsmen figured out how to install a primitive drawer or two under the chest and make it part of the structure. What a convenience. Now you could store stuff in the drawers and not have to dig through all of it to find something. This arrangement was called a “chest, WITH drawers”. Naturally that was a little awkward and the inhabitants of what was essentially an agrarian society came to know it by a reference to a familiar animal that also was a cross between two separate identities – a mule – a hybrid, just like the chest. That’s one story.

The other story involves itinerant traders who carried their wares around the countryside on the back of a mule. It is said that the traders arranged a chest on each side of the mule so that they had ready access to smaller items stored in the drawers or could reach for larger goods stashed in the chest. Thus the chests were dubbed “mule chests” by the traders and their customers. That’s another story. There are others but they are not so plausible as these two. I report – you decide. But I like the first explanation.


I found this explanation at odds and ends.com

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

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a1Jim

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#13 posted 10-22-2009 06:58 PM

Like David I’ll go with it packs a lot

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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Tim Dahn

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#14 posted 10-23-2009 12:19 AM

And…......it is quite possible both are correct.

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

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TedM

2002 posts in 3193 days


#15 posted 10-23-2009 01:52 AM

There you go… whoda thunk it? :)

It’s hard to believe that with the speed that we move with technology today that there was a time when there were no such thing as drawers and as well, that the simple drawer was at one time, cutting edge… we’ve come a long way, baby… and in this case, I believe for the better :)

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit http://www.woodworkersguide.com and sign up for my project updates!

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