No other single architectural element at Drayton Hall near Charleston, South Carolina better reflects the social and financial evolution of the house better than its hardware. When Drayton Hall was built, architectural hardware was in a period of transition, shifting from displaying hardware as a symbol of one's ability to purchase relatively expensive items to conceptualizing of rooms as holistic spaces where the hardware elements were as hidden as possible. Generations of family owners significantly changed the original, cohesive hierarchy of types ranging from the highly stylized to the simply functional, but much of the original remains. This thesis is twofold, combining data management and architectural history. Each of the more than 1200 recorded items has an individual set of characteristics and so was given its own unique identifier, differentiating it from all others. Keyed to each unique identifier are the characteristics associated with that item, such as the floor it is located on, the wall, window or door on which it is mounted, its type, material, and installation date.
The variety of architectural hardware at Drayton Hall ranges from its construction in 1738 to 1974, when the National Trust for Historic Preservation assumed responsibility for one of the nation's most iconic 18th century houses. This comprehensive inventory tells a story common to most wealthy, English, land owning families of the low country. Remarkably, nearly half of the original hardware or clear evidence thereof remains in the house. Federal period changes appear as styles changed and the family tried to keep pace fashion. Little to no changes occurred during the antebellum period as rice culture, and therefore income, declined. Reoccupation of the house after the Civil War accounts for another period of hardware replacement but not of the quality and style of earlier generations.