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Armchair

1770-1800
Origin: America, Maryland, Anne Arundel County
OH: 32 1/2" OW: 31 3/4" OD: 18 1/4"
Tulip poplar and white oak (all by microanalysis).
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1995-108
Construction: The legs are round through-tenoned into the underside of the seat and the tenons are secured with central wedges. The arm supports and stiles are similarly joined and secured to the seat. The arm supports are round-tenoned into the underside of the arms, while the stiles are round through-tenoned and wedged into the crest rail. The splat is through-tenoned into the seat and crest rail and secured with a single wooden pin at the top.
Label:Structurally and stylistically, this unusual chair stands in marked contrast to other eighteenth-century American seating furniture. Its stocky stance and rudimentary joinery most closely parallel the low-seated chairs and stools used in rural British households for cooking and other hearth-oriented activities. Comparable forms include Irish "hedge" chairs, which often have three rather than four legs in order to achieve stability on uneven brick or earthen floors. Early Windsor chairs from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea also exhibit the heavy proportions and wide D-shaped seat seen here. The closest parallels are found on late eighteenth-century chairs from rural Wales, however. Like the present chair, many Welsh models feature broadly splayed legs, semicircular crest rails, half-round seats, shaped splats, and a combination of hand-rounded spindles and rectilinear stiles.

The CWF chair has a long history of ownership at Traveler's Rest (later Hammond Manor), the eighteenth-century plantation home of Philip Hammond (1765-1822) in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Family tradition asserts that the Hammond chair, like its British counterparts, was used by the domestic staff in the estate's kitchen. When the piece came to CWF in 1995, it was assumed to be an import because of its strong visual and structural relationship to British chairs. A microscopic examination revealed that the legs were made of white oak and all of the other elements were of tulip poplar, an American wood not found in British furniture. In short, the chair is clearly of American--probably Maryland--origin.

Given its association with the kitchen at Traveler's Rest and its execution in American woods, the Hammond chair probably was made by or for a Welsh domestic servant in Maryland. Although the vast majority of southern household servants were of African descent, British immigrants arrived in southern coastal centers throughout the colonial period. Many spent their first years in America as indentured servants. For example, a 1750 Charleston newspaper announced "SEVERAL indented English Servants, among them a Taylor, and Upholsterer, a Press-Maker and Joiner . . . just arrived from London, in the Billander Stephen & Mary. Any persons inclined to purchase their time, may treat with Capt. Philip Payne."

Hired servants of British extraction also worked in large southern households as housekeepers, cooks, governesses, tutors, and the like. A "white male servant versed in making chairs, tables and desks" was listed in the estate records of one Anne Arundel County resident. An individual in any of these roles might have been responsible for the migration of this rural British woodworking tradition to the coastal South.
Provenance:The chair was probably first owned by Philip Hammond (1765-1822) at Traveler's Rest, and Anne Arundel Co., MD, estate inherited from his uncle, Mathias Hammond of Annapolis. The chair descended to Philip's son, Thomas Hammond (1793-1856); to his son, William Edgar Hammond (1835-1863); to his daughter, Nettie Edgar Hammond Bates, who was born at Traveler's Rest (1862-1945); to her daughter, Nannie May Bates Sutton (1895-1951); and to her son, Samuel W. Sutton (b. 1928), from whom it was acquired by CWF in 1995.
Mark(s):None.
Inscription(s):None.