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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Title:side chair
Date Made:ca. 1720
Materials:wood: red maple, beech; cane
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Boston
Measurements:overall: h: 45 3/4 w: 20 1/4 d: 18 in.
Narrative Inscription:  Inscribed into underside of rear seat rail: "I"
Accession Number:  HD 95.040
Credit Line:Museum Collections Fund

William and Mary cane-back side chair with a cane back and seat, originally painted Spanish brown. When new, this form was a trend-setting example of the best Boston-made seating furniture; its carved crest rail or "crown," "crookt-back," and imported cane made it expensive. The chair was probably originally fitted with a squab. This chair is from a Boston-made set purportedly owned by Colonel John Stoddard (1682-1748) of Northampton, Massachusetts, the son of the Reverend Solomon Stoddard (1643-1729), one of the early "River God" families. When Stoddard died in 1748 (while in Boston as a member of the Governor's Council), his estate contained "nine cain chairs 34.0." This chair, which descended through the Stoddard-Williston family, was exhibited at the Harvard Tercentenary Exhibition, July 25-Sept. 21, 1936, and listed in the "Catalogue of Furniture Silver Pewter Glass Ceramics Paintings Prints Together with Allied Arts and Crafts of the Period 1636-1836", where was noted that Solomon Stoddard was the first librarian of the College, Harvard A.B. 1662. The survival of the nailed seat list (the scrolled skirt below the front seat rail), the applied toes, and the upper two-thirds of the original cane in the back is rare. Winterthur has an armchair matching this chair, which probably descended in the Hancock and Sheafe families. Other Boston-made "River God"-owned chairs in Historic Deerfield are the cane-back side chair (61.214) from the Ashley family and leather-back side chair (79.012) that belonged to William Williams (1731-1811) of Lebanon, Conn., a nephew of Dorothy Williams Ashley. The chair has a shaped, foliate carved, molded and pierced crest rail; over molded stiles flanking a narrow rectangle cane back, which continue into block and turned rear legs; a thin seat frame and scrolled front seat rail; ball and ring turned front stretcher, baluster-turned medial and back stretchers, and two block and turned, compressed side stretchers. Cane has been replaced. Skirt is red maple, the crest rail is beech.

Label Text:
From the 1680s, London chairmakers produced lightweight, decorative chairs with seats and backs made of plaited cane (rattan) imported from east Asia. By 1700, immigrant English chairmakers in Boston offered these new-style chair designs that incorporated carved crest rails, or “crowns,” ergonomically curved, or “crook’t,” backs and imported cane backs and seats. Made in Boston, this chair was painted a deep red-brown (red ochre “Spanish brown”) and was originally fitted with a cushion.

Original owner:
Colonel John Stoddard (1682-1748) of Northampton, a wealthy judge, politician, militia leader and landowner, bought this chair in Boston as part of a larger set for his home. An inventory of his estate, taken after his death in 1748, indicates that he owned 60 chairs, including a set of “nine cain chairs” (of which this chair is one) valued at a total of 31 pounds 10 shillings, or 3 pound 10 shillings each—costly, even in the inflated currency of the time, and, by far, the most expensive of all of his seating furniture. This chair descended through the Stoddard-Williston family.

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