Federal Mahogany Side Chair

Value (2011) | $1,000 Auction$1,500 Auction

When I first saw this chair in the outside room I thought, what a great Philadelphia side chair, but as I started to turn it over and look at it a little more closely, especially at the secondary woods on the underside of the seat being white pine and also looking at the reeding, which is classic reeding on a Federal chair you'd see in Boston, as well as these signature acanthus leaf carvings on the baluster which are typical of Boston, I realized what we have is really a rare Federal chair made about 1815, in fact, in Boston. It's very similar to chairs made by Haynes and Connelly in Philadelphia, but the reeding rounds off at the top. It's only done in that area of Boston, not in Philadelphia. And I understand that you inherited this chair. GUEST 1: Right, it came down in my family, in my grandmother's family, and they were from Philadelphia and from Pennsylvania so I assumed it came from the Philadelphia area since it's similar to those chairs.

A lot of furniture was shipped down the coast from Boston. There's a huge trade in shipping down between Boston and the port of Philadelphia. So probably it was bought... and probably part of a set originally. Now, you have another chair at home? GUEST 1: A second chair just like this.

You have a pair of these, okay. Well, that makes them... a pair being more rare, of course. That's pretty exciting. How did you come across the chairs? GUEST 1: My mother told me these were antiques that had been in her family and she said, "Don't ever let anything happen to them." And they were in terrible condition and we just had them refinished. GUEST 2: They had the original upholstery, which was damaged, and the finish was actually crazed. And so I don't know whether it would have been better to leave it in that form or to change it.

Well, I hate to say this but if it was the original upholstery, Federal chairs retaining their original upholstery are extremely, extremely rare. GUEST 2: Right, but it was all in threads.

But if the stuffing and the intact upholstery were there with the little tacks, it would have had... that would have lined this edge. A pair of these with the original finish would be worth between $10,000 and $12,000. When these did get refinished, they lost the original patina that we would see, so you have an even sort of color which also affects the value. In this condition, the pair of chairs, if they came up at auction, would be estimated at about $1,000 to $1,500. So unfortunately, there was quite a big difference in price.

Appraisal Details

Leslie Keno Art Advisory
Waccabuc, NY
Update (2011)
$1,000 Auction$1,500 Auction
Appraised value (1997)
$1,000 Auction$1,500 Auction
Pittsburgh, PA (June 14, 1997)

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