This reproduction chair I made last year is based on an original in Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts. That chair belonged to Governor William Bradford of Plymouth. In his probate inventory, dated 1657, there are several chairs listed along with other pieces of furniture. Most seventeenth-century documents just list “chair(s)” – yet Bradford’s inventory has several descriptive adjectives. Still, these are not terribly enlightening. Here’s most of the furniture in his inventory:
“a Court Cubbard £1-05, winescot bedsteed and settle £1-10, 4 lether Chaires £1-12, 1 great lether Chaire 10s, 2 great wooden Chaires 8s, a winscott Chist & Cubburd £1-05, 2 great Carved Chaires £1-04, a smale carved Chaire 6s, 1 great Chaire and 2 wrought stooles £1, a Carved Chist £1″
So, the Pilgrim Hall chair is clearly not a leather chair, nor is it a carved chair, either great (large) or small. It could be the “great Chaire” listed along with 2 wrought (upholstered with textiles) stools; but it is most likely one of the “two great wooden Chaires.” It’s the “wooden” that gives it away, it refers to the material the seat is made from, much like the “leather” chairs.
The finish on mine is conjectural, and is something of a comprimise…there is next to nothing known about what color period turned chairs were finished, but iron oxide was a common pigment used in joined work. There are some nice turned chairs that show up in Dutch paintings of the period with leopard-skin paint schemes, or blotchy polka-dots…I hope to give this a try, but perhaps on a simpler chair first.
This chair has 40 of the decorative turned spindles. The version I’m working on now, based on a Boston example, only has 24. In both cases, the turned work is ash, the seating boards are oak.
If you are in Plymouth, Pilgrim Hall has some great furniture to see. worth a visit. http://www.pilgrimhall.org/