J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

A Chair in New Old Clothing

At Kimberly Alexander’s Silk Damask blog, Jeffrey Hopper just wrote about the restoration of this chair to what was likely its original appearance.

Hopper explained:
Produced in Boston for the better part of 40 years, shipped throughout the colonies and copied by craftsmen in those same colonies, this chair in its many iterations defined its period. Its shape firmly links the design aesthetic of the Restoration Decades (1660-1714) with that of the long Eighteenth Century (1714-1837). The seat and legs reflect the turning traditions of hundreds of years, while the curved back introduces the modern notion of seated comfort.
So it’s a rather ordinary colonial New England chair. But for the past century it’s looked even more quaint and old-fashioned with an embroidered seat and back, as shown by photographs in that posting. But according to today’s experts, that wasn’t how such chairs appeared in the eighteenth century. That’s how people of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century believed they appeared.
The needlepoint chair is an object in the collection of the Warner House in Portsmouth, NH. For some time it was relegated to storage. Stylistically it was viewed as more Colonial Revival than 18th century—it no longer seemed to fit into the presentation of the house.

Several years ago we began to reaccess the presentation of the house and this chair moved from storage into a 19th century bedchamber. It looked vaguely late Victorian in its upholstery and fit into the 19th century bedchamber that displayed several generations of furnishings. Personally, I liked the chair, or at least the structure of it, despite its upholstery. In the accession file from the 1960s it is listed as an 18th century chair, but in the wrong clothing even an authentic piece looks more like a reproduction than an original.

One day we examined it from the side and realized it was likely an 18th century Boston chair covered in fabric, not leather. After a good bit of research and curatorial conversation it was decided to remove and save the needlework, and then replace it with black leather.
After work described and pictured in Hopper’s posting, the chair is once again suitable for display in an eighteenth-century room.

1 comment:

lifford46 said...

I suggest this wonderful house be referred to as the MacPhaedris House. It was originally built and occupied by Archibald MacPhaedris, He was a shipmaster and merchant from northern Ireland, who also purchased lots in several New Hampshire and Massachusetts townships with Scotch-Irish settlers.
At the very least, how about "MacPhaedris/Warner House"?