Museum Acquires 18th Century Armchair

Elizabeth Ackroyd

Elizabeth Ackroyd. Photo credit unknown.

Elizabeth Aykroyd, curator of the Tuck Museum, presented an update at the annual meeting of the Hampton Historical Society regarding the museum’s recent acquisition of a mid-eighteenth-century banister-back armchair made in the Hampton area.

“The unusual turned crest rail and the similar drop panel above the seat mark this chair as belonging to a small group of similar chairs which have been attributed to southeastern New Hampshire,” she said. “It relates to two chairs found in Hampton Falls, with a history of having belonged to the Meschach Weare family. Those two chairs are now in the Currier Museum of Art. They have the turned crest rail like ours, although the banisters are different. Chairs with similar crest rails have also been found in the Portsmouth area with an attribution to that town.

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Our new chair on display in the Charles Henry Turner room at the Tuck Museum. Photo Cheryl Lassiter.

“The turned legs are also typical of chairs made in southeastern New Hampshire. For instance, two banister-back chairs in the American Independence Museum in Exeter have the same turned legs. Those chairs originally belonged to the Revolutionary soldier Major Joseph Cilley of Nottingham, NH. Chairs with similar turnings turn up relatively frequently in antique shops and at auction in this area.

“What makes this chair, found by an antique dealer at auction in Plainfield, NH, almost certainly a manufacture of the greater Hampton area is its extravagant form. Turned chairs with similar exaggerated decorative features seem to share a history of having been in Hampton in the eighteenth century. The James family chair in the Tuck Museum is one example, as are the two Hampton Falls chairs mentioned above. The strong similarities between our chair and those from Hampton Falls indicate a shared tradition of chairmaking. Such chairs seem to date from about 1740 to 1760 or so and illustrate a very local creative impulse which only died out with the new styles that came into fashion after the Revolution.”

The chair is now on display in the Charles Henry Turner Room at the Tuck Museum.

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