Monday, May 1, 2023

Antiques Roadshow - Portland Landmarks Style

When we found a pair of these chairs in the attic, I guessed they were probably really old.  But how old?  And were they worth anything?  I had no idea!

But then I remembered Portland Landmarks was holding their Old House Emporium and would be hosting antique appraisals.  It was the perfect opportunity to learn more about these chairs!

We met Christopher Considine, from Foreside Antiques in Falmouth.  He looked the chair over and quickly determined it was made around 1830 (almost 200 years old!).  How could he tell?

First clue was a manufacturing flaw on the back of the chair.  This circular saw mark was a defect when the slat was being cut.  The circular saw was a huge technological improvement  that had recently been introduced across the country. It suddenly made mass production a reality. 

Circular saw mark was a manufacturing defect, which provided a clue to the chair's age

Windsor chair

Next was the style.  Previous to this, the Windsor chair was the typical chair that American homeowners wanted in their home.  But these chairs took a talented furniture maker a long time to make and that meant they were also expensive.  

That's why the introduction of the circular saw was so important.  Suddenly furniture parts could be mass produced.  Legs, backs, and slats could be made in batches and tossed in a barrel to wait for assembly.  Lamberth Hitchcock came up with the clever idea of creating interchangeable chair parts that allowed a chair to be assembled quickly, with very little skill.  These Hitchcock 'fancy chairs' became immensely popular and were assembled and painted around the country.  

The decorative stencil was typically done by sign painters when they had free time.  They could visit a shop, paint all of them in a day, and be on their way.   Our chair has typical fruit and vine motifs - pumpkin, grapes and twirling vines.

Our Hitchcock style chair has the trademark stenciling on the back

Ours also has 'coachwork' which is gold embellishments that originated on horse drawn coaches - but also worked on chair legs! 

The cane seat had fallen apart many years ago and been replaced with a black one.  

Christopher's expert opinion was that the chair was Maine made - probably of maple and birch.  

Oh, and how much is it worth?  In today's market - $1! 😂😂😂

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