Mahogany is a hard tropical wood from the Americas. It was discovered by Europeans early in the 16th century (~1514). The wood comes from a tree, Swietenia mahagoni. The tree is native to southern Florida and islands in the Caribbean including the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, and Hispaniola.
At first, mahogany was used by the Spanish and English to build ships.Mark Catesby's Natural History explains why:
"[Mahogany] has properties for that use excelling oak, and all other wood, viz. durableness, resisting gunshots, and burying the shot without splintering".
The second use for mahogany was to make furniture. The Spanish were first to do this, but in the 18th and early 19th century it was much used by English workshops. This period is called "Age of Mahogany". Also much furniture in mahogany was made in France and other European countries.
It has a few special characteristics that make mahogany a helpful wood. It is strong and durable but easy to bend so is especially helpful for carpenters. Mahogany trees, although endangered, grow very tall and are so may be cut into large sheets. Also, mahogany is resistant to stains.
- Frank Bruce Lamb (1966). Mahogany of tropical America: its ecology and management. University of Michigan Press. p. 10.
- D. Louppe (2008). Timbers. PROTA. pp. 526–528. ISBN 978-90-5782-209-4.
- T. Kent Kirk (2009). Tropical trees of Florida and the Virgin Islands: a guide to identification, characteristics and uses. Pineapple Press Inc. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-56164-445-2.
- Clayton Dissinger Mell (1917). True mahogany. Washington D.C.: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. pp. 9–10.
- Mark Catesby (1729). The natural history of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands ... (in French and English). pp. 80–81. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Percy Macquoid (1906). A history of English furniture: the age of mahogany. Lawrence & Bullen.