Congressional Desk and Chair, ca. 1857

Value (2007) | $40,000 Retail
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GUEST:
My father inherited them from his aunt, who acquired them through her marriage, and then they came to my dad and passed down to me. We always just referred to it as the "Senate desk." But there was also the rumor that we'd heard that it came from a Congressman White from Maine. So that didn't connect. And then I went on to the ROADSHOW, uh, Web site and saw that one had been appraised about 2000 or 2001 in Tulsa. And it had been refinished. And there I found out that it was made in about 1857, in Boston, designed by, I believe, a Philadelphia architect or designer. And it was in the House of Representatives, not the Senate, from about 1857 until, I'm not quite sure, sometime after the Civil War.

APPRAISER:
That's right.

GUEST:
And that's, that's what I know.

APPRAISER:
Both pieces were designed by Thomas Walter, who was the architect of the Capitol.

GUEST:
Oh, he was, okay. We'd heard that, too, yeah.

APPRAISER:
They were made by two different people. The desk was made by Doe and Hazelton of Boston, the chair by Bembe and Kimbel of New York.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
They were made and used from 1857 to 1873 at the House of Representatives.

GUEST:
Okay, that long.

APPRAISER:
I think there was 242 of them made. Not much is known about Doe and Hazelton in Boston; a little bit more is known about Bembe and Kimbel. Kimbel was a European trained cabinetmaker from a long line of furniture makers in Europe. He came to America, like many immigrants, and developed a very prosperous company. He was a very noteworthy 19th-century cabinetmaker. I think what's really spectacular about the pieces, though, is their historical significance and what they represent to America-- not only in their design, but what they were witness to. I mean, you think of what occurred in America from 1857...

GUEST:
That's exactly right. Yes.

APPRAISER:
Some of the design elements that I think are particularly interesting is the United States shield, the oak leaves that flank it, the laurel leaves that come down the stile here. And then as we come down the chair, you'll notice the star on the skirt, which is also incorporated on the desk. Both motifs are incorporated on the desk as well.

GUEST:
As is the shield.

APPRAISER:
What's interesting, however, is that you'll see three chairs to probably one desk. So the desk, much scarcer than the chair, interestingly enough.

GUEST:
I thought it would be the reverse.

APPRAISER:
Any idea of its value? You ever had it appraised?

GUEST:
Well, the desk that was appraised previously on the ROADSHOW, that had been refinished,

APPRAISER:
Yeah.

GUEST:
and it didn't have the original...

APPRAISER:
Uh-huh.

GUEST:
I think appraised at $8,000 or $9,000. And the man who appraised it said that he'd heard of one selling for about $15,000 several years earlier. So, I just, you know, conservative thought, well, maybe with the chair, maybe 20.

APPRAISER:
Being together, a chair and a desk, increases its value. I think that a gallery would offer it at a fixed retail price of $40,000.

GUEST:
Really? Well, that's very nice.

APPRAISER:
It also gives you an idea of how things have appreciated since that last appraisal.

GUEST:
Yes, exactly.

APPRAISER:
Because when Wendell Garrett did that-- when it was done, it was a very accurate appraisal. But these have since...

GUEST:
Exactly.

APPRAISER:
...over the last two or three years have probably doubled in what used to be their value.

GUEST:
Is this the original?

APPRAISER:
I believe so. The upholstery is not.

GUEST:
My mother had the upholstery redone.

APPRAISER:
It originally had leather upholstery.

GUEST:
We didn't know, but we thought so.

APPRAISER:
And very few of them survive with their original fabric. In fact, one sold with its original leather-- sold for $30,000. Upholstery makes a big difference.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Witherell's
Sacramento, CA
Value Update (2007)
$40,000 Retail
Value Update (2007)
$40,000 Retail
Appraised value (2007)
$40,000 Retail
Event
Spokane, WA (August 04, 2007)
Period
19th Century
Form
Chair, Desk
Material
Leather, Wood

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