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American Antique Chairs
Early antique chairs made in America adopted the styles of their European brethren. Chairs in the American colonies featured turned arms and legs and spindle backs. English-inspired wainscot chairs were also present, one of which has been handed down as the chair of school presidents at Yale University.
Antique American chairs eventually took on their own idiosyncrasies, resulting in the Federal style resurrected by the New York leader of the furniture trade Duncan Pfyfe. Hitchcock chairs with rush or cane seats came out of Connecticut. These chairs are often painted black or dark green and embellished with painted leaves, flowers, and fruit. Designs native to the colonies include the ladder-back chairs of the Appalachians and the Shakers’ ladder-back, cane-seat rocking chairs. Antique rocking chairs are also a testament to early American history. The idea may have found form in English chairs, but their popularity swelled in America.
The Arts and Crafts movement of the early 20th century took American tastes away from mass production and refocused them on traditional craftsmanship. Mission chairs and rocking chairs by Gustav Stickley are the American interpretation of the movement, featuring clean lines, leather seats, and unpainted wood. Mid-century modern style followed. Some of the most famous chairs of this era were produced by Charles and Ray Eames for the Henry Miller Furniture Company. These chairs were simple molded plywood and fiberglass mounted on static metal legs or wooden rockers.
In 2015, federal agents recovered President Theodore Roosevelt’s rocking chair from an auction in Atlanta. The piece had been missing from the White House since the 18th century when an employee was told he could take the chair home. The chair remained in the employee’s family until put up for auction
A pair of 670 lounge chairs and a 671 ottoman designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1957 realized a price of $16,639 at an auction by Christie’s in 2011
A Mathew Brady Studio carved-oak armchair circa 1857 by Bembe and Kimbel New York sold for $449,000 in a Bonhams auction in 2015