Monday, June 11, 2012

Working On A Piece Of History

We have the honor of working on all kinds of family heirlooms here at our shop, but not often do we get to work on pieces of history quite this old.  You see this is not just any Windsor Chair,  this is an original Windsor Chair from approximately 1770.  Which makes this a very old chair!  Because it is so old, we didn't do very much to it.  We simply cleaned, waxed and polished it, leaving the original finish in place.
To help you understand why this chair is so special, besides it's age, let me tell you just a little tiny bit about the history of Windsor Chairs.   'Legend has it that King George 2nd, seeking shelter from a storm, arrived at a peasant cottage and was given a multi-spindeled chair to sit on.  It's comfort and simplicity impressed him so much that he had is own furniture-maker copy it- and the Windsor vogue was born' according to the Treasury of American Design and Antiques by Clarence P. Hornung.

By 1730 the Windsor Chair had begun to make it's way to the American Colonies, where furniture makers immediately began perfecting the design, and making it a quintessential American chair. The best known version of the Windsor chair is called a 'hoop back' chair.  This is the same version as you can see in the photo above.  This particular style of chair gained prominence right around the American Revolution and was the style of choice in the homes of many founding fathers including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson,  John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.  In fact it was so popular during this era that cabinetmaker Francis Trumbull was commissioned to make over 100 of these chairs for the Philadelphia State House where the Declaration of Independence was drafted in 1776. 
If you look at the chairs in this engraving by Edward Savage (circa 1776) of the signing of the Declaration, you can see the very same hoop back Windsor Chairs being used in that State house,  as the design of the chair we had in our shop.  That is exciting!  While I am sure this chair we had in our shop was not in Independence Hall,  it was certainly from the same era.  There are several great websites that do a great job of explaining the important place that Windsor Chairs had in the history of the United States.  One of those sites had this great paragraph.....

Looking back through American history, Windsor chairs can be seen in many notable places as documented through paintings. As a matter of fact, George Washington himself fancied Windsor chairs - with a recorded 27 Windsor chairs at his Mount Vernon home.  Thomas Jefferson is said to have written a draft of the Declaration of Independence while seated in a Windsor. When the Declaration was signed in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on July 4, 1776, the assembly sat in Windsors. Washington’s officers sat in Windsor chairs at Fraunces Tavern in New York City to listen to his farewell speech. In more recent history, Henry Francis du Pont, the founder of Winterthur Museum in Delaware, had 250 Windsor chairs in his collection.

For more from that site check out this weblink...

Other interesting pages you might want to check out are here...

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