Chairs And Sofas Part 5

The next maker to claim attention is Sheraton, whose work is always admirable. He combined elegance with strength, and much of his fine furniture, or at least that made from his designs, is in use to-day, and has been ever since it was made, over a hundred years ago. I know of one set of Sheraton chairs brought to this country by the ancestors of their present owner about 1780. In these chairs, when they stood in a famous old manor-house near Albany, have sat Washington, Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, and many of the Dutch patroons, those " Lords of the Manor " of which we read in old records. The table that goes with them still holds its own, but the original set of forty-eight chairs has been broken by the division of inheritance, and though both side and armchairs are left with the table, their number is much reduced. These chairs have never needed repair, except to have the leather cover renewed.

In Figure 85 are given one arm and one side chair of what was a very favourite pattern with Sheraton. One will find it diversified in many ways, inlaid with coloured woods, or with slender bands of brass, or with carving, as in the figure, but always agreeable.

Other familiar patterns are shown in Figure 86, and they are, as are all the designs of this maker, admirable. He combined strength with an appearance of lightness, and although some of his ornament is rather florid, it is generally pleasing to look on.

In the lovely and historic old church of St. Michaels, at Charleston, South Carolina, is a large pew called the "Governor's Pew," and instead of having the regular seats, it is furnished with a set of Sheraton chairs. General Washington sat in one of these chairs, Sunday afternoon, May 8, 1791. Lafayette used it later, and since that time many other celebrities have sat there as well.

Another style to which Sheraton was much addicted was painted furniture, in which the background was black and the pattern applied in gold. The seats of such chairs were rush-bottoms.

Quite recently I was shown an arm and a side chair of exquisite curly maple, the wood left its natural colour, and a design painted on it in a charming style. The lady who had bought them considered she had perfect treasures, as indeed she had, and they were worth many times more than the sixteen dollars she paid for them. It was some time after she bought them before they came home, and she talked a great deal about them. Finally they arrived, and she set them out before her husband and said in triumph, 'Well, what do you think of my chairs? " He looked at them for some moments and then replied, " I think they look like thirty cents!" Which goes to prove that when you select a hobby it is well to have the other members of the family share your enthusiasm.

A pair of what were known as Windsor chairs is shown in Figure 87. They are sturdy old things, and they were very popular during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. You will find them advertised for sale in all the old newspapers of the country, a typical notice being the following:

 Fig. 87 Maple Windsor Chairs. Fig. 88 washington s Chair and Table.

"Windsor chairs made and sold by William Gautier. High-backed, Low-backed, Sack-backed, and settees, also dining and low chairs."

The Windsor rockers are not so common as the side chairs, and of these latter those are most esteemed" which have a little candng on the arms — five fingers," it is called — but it is very crude work.

In the next Figure (88) is shown a Windsor chair and a Pembroke table, which are of more than usual interest. They belonged to George Washington, and were in use at Mount Vernon. In the year 1774 there was a sale of the furniture at "Belvoir," the Virginia seat of the Fairfax family, where they had hVed with almost feudal magnificence. George Fairfax and his wife went to England to attend to the estate in that country, and never returned to Virginia, so the next year they instructed that their dwelling and its con tents be sold.

George Washington, Colonel Washington he was at that time, seems to have given more attention to ac quiring household possessions than did Madam. There are constant records of his purchases, and he was a large buyer at the vendue which took place at Belvoir. He bought mahogany, brass, and copper ware, a toasting-fork, pillows and feather-beds, pewter plates and pickle-pots, china ware, Persian carpets and curtains. From Colonel Fairfax' own room he chose a shaving-table and a desk, and also a mahogany Pembroke table, for which he paid £l 12s.

Could it have been this same table? There is no record of Windsor chairs in this sale, which seems to include every other article of household furniture.

Although Windsor chairs made their appearance over here about 1725 or a few years later, and were made at Philadelphia, it was not until about twenty years later that they became common. The usual colours in which they were painted were black or dark green, and in these colours we are most familiar with them. Beside the regular makers of furniture many handy men who could use tools eked out a narrow income by making chairs for sale, or made them for use at home. I have such a one, of maple, without any paint on it, and now grown a beautiful brown. It has not a nail in the parts being fastened together with it, wooden pegs. It is somewhat on the Windsor pattern, but has two flat ornaments let in the back. One day, in looking over carefully, it found on the under side, scratched in, "Made by Jarret, 1795." It came from the far South, and I like to think that Jarret made it for a spinning-chair for Mrs. Jarret!

 Fig. 89 Nathaniel Hawthorne s Chair. Fig. 90 Uamel Webster s Chair Fig. 91 Napoleon s Chair.

Besides such humble chairs as the one just described may be found others which belonged to those whose names have become household words. In the group of three in Figure 89 is one which belonged to Nathaniel Hawthorne. It is the large leather one at the right, and itd oes not look particularly comfortable. It is of a nondescript style, with legs at the front of turned wood, and a heavy object to lift.

Of about the same degree of comfort is the next chair, showi in Figure 90, which also belonged to one of our distinguished men. This chair is of mahogany, with a sparing use of good carving, and belonged to Daniel Webster. It is of the familiar pattern which was in vogue from 182-185 . Both of these chairs are preserved in Salem, Massachusetts.

An even more distinguished relic than either of these chairs already mentioned one which has been recently sold at auction at Sotheby's in London. This is a chair which belonged to Napoleon, and in which the great emperor passed his last days at St. Helena. The chair is a simple affair (Figure 91), not much to look at, somewhat on the Sheraton pattern, with cane a seat and fight frame. It is said that was on this throne that the emperor sat when he dictated his memoirs to Las Cases.

It seems as if the chair had been made for the emperor, to fit agreeably his short and somewhat rotund figure. The dimensions are somewhat unusual for a chair of this style, the cane seat being nineteen by sixteen inches broad, while the legs are but seven teen inches high. This relic is apparently well authenticated, for underneath the seat is this inscription:

"This chair was used by Napoleon Bonaparte, and purchased at the sale of his effects at Longwood, by Andrew Darling, St. Helena, 1821."

After buying the chair, Mr. Darling had a brass plate put upon it, which seems rather conclusive evidence that the chair the one actually used by was Napoleon at St. Helena. The belongings of this great man are sadly dispersed, and it is a pity that they can not be placed in some National Museum. It makes one almost shiver to see his camp bedstead at a place like Madame Tussaud's.

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Source

The Collector's Manual by N. Hudson Moore, Amy Richards. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1906.

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