Bannister-back armchair with traces of old red paint under its later finish. It was probably made in the Deerfield area (ex collection Memorial Hall?). It descended in the Sheldon family and was in the Frary House when the building was purchased from PVMA in 1969. The armchair has a broad solid cyma-curved crest rail; four turned banisters reversed so that the rounded side faces the sitter; similarly-turned stiles topped by elongated spool-like finials; collar-and-urn turned front legs extend to support the arms with their rolled handholds; plain turned back legs. It has two sausage-turned front stretchers, and plain stretchers on the sides and rear. The worn-down legs have lost height. This armchair is very close in style to side chair 56.136. Rear of one of the bannisters is black ash, the legs are maple, and the underside of proper right arm is birch. Patches where rockers were once attached are visible on the legs.
The distinctive shape of this turned great chair’s crest rail, reversed banisters, reel-shaped finials and baluster-turned front stretchers identifies it as the product of a Deerfield turner and chairmaker, possibly Zadock King, Jr. (b. 1754). The chair’s design is based on “banister chairs” that Hartford, Connecticut turner Obadiah Spencer, Jr. (1666-1741) introduced to the Connecticut River Valley in the early-eighteenth century. King’s father, Zadock King, Sr. (1727-1769) probably adapted Spencer’s designs for the next generation of western Massachusetts families. Zadock Jr., brought the designs forward into the third generation. Even with the introduction of fashionable Windsor chairs to the region in the 1770s and fancy chairs in the 1790s, the familiar, sturdy, time-tested Spencer-King style of turned chair remained popular locally through the early-nineteenth century.
Marriage and apprenticeships between members of the Spencer and King families link their designs’ continuity. Zadock King, Jr.’s great-grandfather, Thomas King (1662-1711), married Obadiah Spencer, Jr.’s sister, Mary Spencer (ca. 1675-1711/12) and may have worked in Spencer’s shop. His uncle, Parmenas King (1713-1800) may have apprenticed with Obadiah Spencer Jr. before becoming a house joiner. It is possible that his father, Zadock King, Sr. (1725-1769), too young to have apprenticed with Obadiah Spencer, Jr., learned the Spencer style from his brother, Parmenus King, and passed it on to his son.
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