2017-10-12 / Arts & Entertainment News

COLLECTOR’S CORNER

A stenciled Bicentennial find that leaves me sitting pretty


This Hitchcock chair was made in the mid-1970s to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial. 
SCOTT SIMMONS/FLORIDA WEEKLY This Hitchcock chair was made in the mid-1970s to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial. SCOTT SIMMONS/FLORIDA WEEKLY We were walking through the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston when we arrived at an exhibition of 18th and 19th century furnishings.

My friend Mike paused and gasped, “Oh, my gosh, Scott! There are my chairs!”

There was a set of black lacquer Hitchcock-style chairs, their stenciled designs worn from over a century of use.

At first glance, they were identical to the mixed set of stenciled chairs I’d found for Mike everywhere from thrift stores to yard sales to antiques shops.

But the chairs I’d given Mike were very modern in their construction, from the screws used to join the backs to the seats to the nylon glides on the bottoms of the legs to keep the feet from marring the floors.

Still, the design was classic.

And it was a classic with which I had grown up.


A detail of the chair’s back splat, which depicts Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. A detail of the chair’s back splat, which depicts Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. If memory serves me, White’s Furniture sold the Hitchcock line near downtown Fort Myers, along with Lane cedar chests. Barber Furniture and Roberts Furniture, also in Fort Myers, sold Tell City furniture that was inspired by the Early American designs.

And who can forget Ethan Allen, which had a whole line of stenciled furniture?

Lambert Hitchcock mass-produced his stenciled chairs in the first half of the 19th century, and by the end of the 1820s, his Connecticut factory was producing more than 15,000 chairs a year.

As innovative as he was as a designer, he was not successful as a businessman, and the factory folded, as did another venture.

It wasn’t until the 1940s that the Hitchcock name was revived as a furniture line. That continued until 2006. In 2010, a new group bought the name, artwork and plans for the furniture, and you now can order much of the Hitchcock line at www.hitchcockchair.com. ¦

THE FIND:

Hitchcock Bicentennial chair

Bought: Salvation Army Family Store, 2255 Davis Blvd., Naples; 239-774-4347 or www.salvationarmyflorida.org/naples/ programs-services/thrift-stores/

Paid: $39

The Skinny: People bought anything during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration of U.S. independence — I remember David Brenner selling Bicentennial Philadelphia dirt as a stunt for “The Mike Douglas Show.”

Merchants offered a little of everything, from the cheesy to the sublime.

These green chairs, which have a motif of presidential homes, veer toward the sublime, and were made in limited editions. The caned seats are dressier than the woven rush seats you often see on these, as befits a limited edition. The finishes are quite nice.

Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is the home illustrated on the back of the chair I bought. Others more commonly seen are George Washington’s Mount

Vernon, John Adams’ house at Quincy, Mass., and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. But Hitchcock also had a design inspired by Lyndon Johnson’s LBJ Ranch — one of those has an asking price online of

$1,000.

Others similar to mine are listed at over $300 online, leaving me sitting pretty any way you look at it. ¦

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