There was a time when I knew nothing about Hitchcock chairs and cared even less.
That changed one day when I was in the overheated mezzanine of an overstuffed antiques shop just north of me. Obstructing my path to the stairs was an older slip of a man with an intense stare in an immaculately tailored vintage brown suit. (Is the suit vintage if he has been wearing it since it came off the rack?) He was standing behind a chair that he tilted toward me slightly and proclaimed: “This is an original Hitchcock chair!” My confused look caused him to repeat himself more emphatically and tilt the chair more.
Discretion being the better, part of valor, I accepted the chair and examined it closely. I picked it up and viewed it from all angles before returning it to him. I told him it was a fine and desirable chair and if money and space were infinite, I would undoubtedly own several.
He gave me a look that indicated he understood my predicament but did not fully approve my judgement. I took advantage of his momentary acquiescence and fled. Still, the name and image of the Hitchcock chair stayed with me. IT people of a certain age might call it a background job.
Then came the Great Chair Awakening of 2017. In March of that year I had a discussions with two chair evangelists that enlightened me to the ways of the chairs in their beauty, design and function in the world. Since then, I have taken note (and pictures) of most/all of the chairs I’ve seen.
The Hitchcock chair goes back to Connecticut woodworker Lambert Hitchcock making the first mass-produced chair in 1820. Hitchcock was influenced by a local clock maker that made affordable clocks using standardized parts and production line techniques. Hitchcock had achieved early success by producing unfinished chair components sold by local merchants as replacement parts for broken chairs.
His chairs were a variation on Sheraton chairs with some Empire and touch of the Baltimore chair blended in.
A Hitchcock chair. The most recognizable of their designs.
The woven seats were unique in that the seats were enclosed on all four sides by moldings or trim.
I wonder if the trim is removable or does the weaver have to thread all the material through a small gap?
But the true marker of a genuine Hitchcock chair is the Hitchcock name being stenciled onto the back of the seat:
There were three variations of this stenciling over the years. Age can be estimated based on variation.
Other features of the Hitchcock chair include:
(Cut and pasted from The Hitchcock Chair from the Spruce)
- Back is typically composed of a crest rail at top (usually a turned roll; often a flat rail, especially after 1835); a large central cross rail; and a thinner slat below
- Turned front legs, often ringed or beaded in gold half-way around
- Rear legs rise to form the chair stiles
- Wood of choice: maple; oak, birch, poplar used as well
- Legs are footless or have ball feet
- Stretchers on the front, back and sides; beading on the front stretcher
- Seats are square, usually made of cane or rush
- Stencil motifs: baskets of fruit, flowers, cornucopias, leaves, lyres
How many of the listed features can you find on this chair?
And the leg.
Others made the Hitchcock chair:
When is a Hitchcock not a Hitchcock?
When it it a Nichols & Stone.
Or this one?
Nichols & Stone of a different era.
North Carolina contributed this less decorated chair.
High Point Bending & Chair Co. Later the Boling Chair Co. Now operating as the Boling Group.
And our candidate from Indiana.
From Tell City, Indiana, the Tell City Chair Company, 1865 to 2011.
From the the Spruce article:
With success came imitators, and over time, a “Hitchcock chair” began to mean any painted and colorfully-stenciled chair that roughly resembled the originals – that is, medium-back in height and largely square in shape.
A Hitchcock chair?
The there are some Hitchcock chairs that are Klismos chair hybrids:
A Klismos Hitchcock chair.
I’ve been struggling on the post on and off for a month now and I don’t know why. Too much information and struggling looking for a narrative. The good thing about the delay was coming up with two more unique examples. First is a genuine Hitchcock chair found in Warrenton, Missouri:
With a solid seat. Most are caned or woven.
The magic stencil of the true chair.
In Fenton, MO, I found this chair from an unexpected source:
Looks like a Hitchcock.
It is a Hitchcock from Ethan Allen.
Hitchcock Chair Co. has come and gone and is back again. Boling Group is still in business. Nichols and Stone is still around. Tell City Chair is gone. Ethan Allen is going quite well.
Yet nobody I found is currently producing a Hitchcock chair although Hitchcock is making something similar.
To see my large selection of Hitchcock chair photos, go HERE.