Research

A Rare and Important Pair of Housatonic Valley side chairs inscribed “H.M. Swift”

May 9th, 2013

A rare and important pair of Chippendale cherry side chairs from the Housatonic Valley, Connecticut, 1775 to 1800, featuring a shell and vine carved crest, pierced splat and ball and claw feet.

The chairs feature the period ink inscription on the seat frames, “H.M. Swift”, possibly related to the family of General Heman Swift (1733-1814) of Cornwall, Connecticut. With an additional early 20th century jelly label bearing the inscription, “Mrs. Prescott Lunt.”

This fine pair of Chippendale chairs features the most elaborate combination of elements offered on seating furniture in the Housatonic Valley during the 18th Century. The boldly carved serpentine crests feature a projecting and carved scallop shell flanked by scrolled vines suggestive of carved decoration associated with more urban centers such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston. The pierced carved splat shows a sophisticated Gothic influence and displays extra attention with numerous scrolled returns placed throughout the design. The serpentine shaped lower edges of the seat rails, the large c-scrolls that begin on the knee returns and continue down the leg, as well as the oversized ball and claw feet are all additional elements that combine to create a chair of strength and beauty.

The crest of the chair shows a relationship those found on some seating furniture attributed to the Woodbury area and discussed in “Fiddlebacks and Crooked-backs” by Edward Cooke. The Chippendale side chair shown in Figure 14, page 53, features a simplified form without the carved details, however, similarities can be seen in the serpentine shaped crest rail, as well as the pierced splat featuring a well balanced design and a pierced quatrefoil design at the bottom. The serpentine shaped crest can also be seen in turned chairs from Woodbury illustrated by Cooke in Figures 11, 12 and 13. Interestingly, the scallop shell and vine carved crest have some relation to furniture made at the mouth of the Housatonic River in Stratford. The quality of craftsmanship and a similar aesthetic are found on a fine dressing table illustrated in “The Furniture of Historic Deerfield,” by Dean Fales, figure 442, page 217. The Deerfield dressing table shows a great attention to carved decoration, showing a deeply carved and complex fan, similar c-scrolls on the legs flanked by vine carving. The dressing table also features ball and claw feet, loosely related but featuring a more refined form.

The chairs both feature 18th or early 19th century ink inscriptions on the seat frames, “H.M. Swift.” The inscription is possibly connected to the family of General Heman Swift (1733-1814) of Cornwall, Connecticut. The son of Son of Jabez Swift (1701-1767) and Abigail Pope (1710-1767), Heman Swift was born in Kent, Connecticut. He became a prominent leader in the Connecticut Militia and was rewarded with the rank of Colonel and command of his own Regiment. Swift was involved in the battles at Brandywine and Germantown and wintered at Valley Forge. He was appointed Colonel to the Connecticut Line of the Continental Army and was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati. After the War ended Swift followed a career as a prominent lawyer and Representative to the General Assembly. He died in Cornwall in 1814 and the Sermon read at his funeral was published in 1815.

The second inscription is found on an early 20th century jelly label and reads “Mrs. Prescott Lunt.” One reference to Mrs. Lunt is found in the records of the Daughters of the American Revolution from 1921, “The bugle call, given by Mrs. Wheeler, announced the opening of the Conference at 3 o’clock, when the State and National Officers, with distinguished guests, entered, escorted by thirty pages. The personal page of the State Regent was Mrs. Prescott Lunt, one of the young matrons of Rochester Chapter.”

Mrs. Prescott Lunt appears to be Ida Barrington Vought Lunt who was born September 24, 1893 in Rochester, New York, the daughter of Grandin Throckmorton Vought, who was born on Oct. 31, 1858 in Pittsford, NY. Grandin Vought was married second on July 13, 1886 to Mary E. Loud (1859-1895). Grandin Vought was the son of James Throckmorton Vought (1814 – 1894) of Duanesburg, NY and Freehold, NJ. and Mary Jane Tracey (1836-1868), and the grandson of Christopher Vought (1787-1825) and Mary Johnson Throckmorton (1787-1849), also of Duanesburg and Freehold. She was married to Prescott Lunt who was born on Jan. 29, 1895 in Rochester, NY, the son of Clarence S. Lunt (b.1867) and Edith M. Prescott (b. abt. 1869) who were married on October 22, 1889 in Rochester, NY. It is interesting that the Vought and Lunt families do not appear to have a direct connection to the Swift family. Perhaps it was Mrs. Prescott Lunt’s activities in the DAR that led to her acquisition of these fine chairs.

Combining beauty, rarity and historical significance, these chairs stand out as important examples of the Chippendale design as interpreted in the Housatonic River Valley. With boldly carved shells on the crest, intricately carved splats and over sized ball and claw feet, these chairs survive as symbols of the wealth and success enjoyed in western Connecticut at the end of the 18th century.

HK Blanket Chest

May 9th, 2013

William and Mary joined oak and pine blanket chest.
Northampton, Massachusetts, 1675 – 1700.

First known as Pilgrim Century, then as William and Mary, the style defining this first period of antiques is now recognized as an extension of Mannerism. Mannerism traces its roots back to about 1520 in Rome and can be seen as a reaction to the High Renaissance. The designs used by the Mannerists split with the balance and symmetry of the Renaissance and featured activated surfaces that emphasized abstract decoration over the classically inspired naturalism of the earlier period. This style spread from Rome across Italy and eventually flourished throughout Europe and into the British Isles, as well as the American Colonies. It is evident in abstract form in this chest.

This fine joined blanket chest features molded decoration and the initials of the owner “HK.” The chest was made for Haines Kingsley (1662-1689) of Northampton, Massachusetts, between 1680 and 1689, and descended directly in family. Recent research suggests that it was made by Haines Kingsley’s kinsman, Enos Kingsley (1640-1708). Enos was the son of the family patriarch, John Kingsley (1614-1678) who was a wood worker who followed John Oldham to settle Wethersfield, Connecticut in 1635. John Kingsley’s activities as a skilled craftsman are well documented throughout the early Wethersfield records. John eventually moved his family to Northampton and was living there by 1653. Enos Kingsley accompanied his father to Northampton as a youth and eventually became a respected wood worker in the community. He was hired by the town to construct the Northampton grist mill and a cart bridge over the Mill River. The chest shows the Mannerist style of geometric form decoration as interpreted in the Connecticut River Valley. Through the creative use of multiple planes, Enos formed wide plane carved moldings that activate the chest into intricate bands of three-dimensional decoration. The moldings run horizontally across the front and vertically on the sides of the chest. The front edges of the chest also feature chip-carved notched corners as well as partial plane molding along the top and bottom edges. This adaptation of Mannerist design shows the affection for complex compositions of stylized patterns.

Upon close examination of the plane molded decoration the plane chatter can still be seen and shows the exact technique of using one plane on top of the other to create the detailed molded decoration. At least three different planes were used in succession leaving a deep central gouge flanked by a series of ogee and cove moldings. The result is a Mannerist masterpiece showing an activated surface with subtle variations that change with
differing light.

A Misses Patten School Needlework of Moses in the Bulrushes by Emily Sage

May 9th, 2013

“The Babe Wept and She Had Compassion on Him.

Exod. Ch. 2. V. 6.”

“E. Sage”

A fine Silk on Silk needlework by
Emily Sage (1789-1836) of Portland and Chatham, Connecticut, 1805 – 1810.

Signed lower right by the maker, “E. Sage”, for Emily Sage Selden who was born 1789 and married to John Selden on May 1815. Emily Sage was the daughter of Abner Sage, born 1758, who was the son of Deacon David Sage, born 1718, one of the first settlers of Middletown, Connecticut.

Retaining the original eglomese matte and gilt molded frame retaining the original framer’s label for “Nathan Ruggles Looking Glass Manufacturer, Main Street Hartford, Connecticut.”

This fine silk on silk pictorial needlework features design supporting an attribution to the Misses Pattens School of Hartford, Connecticut. Established by Ruth Patten in Hartford around 1785, this sophisticated female academy became widely known for the needlework of its students. Examples of the distinctive designs are shown in “Girlhood Embroidery” by Betty Ring, pages 202 to 208. Among the most notable signature elements is the metallic thread embroidered eagle at the top. The eagle is shown holding a garland of roses and flowers with sequined bow knots in the corners and large sheaf of wheat at the sides. According to Ring; “The most easily recognized Connecticut needlework has the highly raised and padded metallic embroidery favored by the Misses Patten during the first decade of the nineteenth century but seldom used elsewhere by American schoolgirls except on eighteenth-century Boston coats of arms. At the Patten School, pictorial subjects or coats of arms were often surmounted by a gold or silver raised-work eagle above a swagged garland suspended from spangled bow knots in the upper corners. The central motif was often partly encircled by palm fronds with golden, or bearded ears of wheat (Figs.235-237). It also appears that certain allegorical or Biblical subjects were favorites of the Misses Patten, particularly views of Charity (Fig.238) after the Stamps print (Fig.239) and depictions of Moses in the Bulrushes (Fig.241). Rarer but still recognizable, are other combinations of typical motifs, as seen in Fig.240. Contemporary with these embroideries is a large group of painted coats of arms with patterns identical to the worked ones.”

A nearly identical Moses in the Bulrushes needlework from Misses Patten School and worked by Lucretia Colton is illustrated in “American Needlework” by Georgiana B. Harbeson, figure 1, facing page 83. The Colton needlework had descended in the family and was described by Lucretia’s great-great-granddaughter; “This needlework picture ‘Moses in the Bulrushes’ is one of five Biblical pictures, the only one saved from the great Chicago fire. It was embroidered by my great-great-grandmother, Lucretia Colton, of Long Meadow, Massachusetts, the year in which it was done is unknown. She was born December 29, 1788, so I imagine it was dome about 1800 or thereabouts. The embroidery is in soft shades of greens, yellow and browns, silks in white satin. The eagle at the top is in gold thread, raised, and the figures and the sky are hand painted in.”

Emily Sage is listed in the “Genealogical Record of the Descendants of David Sage, one of the first settlers of Middletown in 1652,” by Elisha Sage, published 1878. She is shown on page 60 under the heading; “Family of Abner, 1758. Great Grandson of David, 1639. Abner 1758 – Sarah Ellsworth, Portland, Conn. – (son of David, 1718) 3d from David. 2 sons, Henry E., 1797, Edward C., 1793. 3 Daughters; Sarah , 1787, (Spencer;) Emily, 1789 (Selden;) *Almira, 1791.”

Emily Sage was married to John Selden (b.1788) on May 21, 1815 in Chatham, Connecticut, just across the river from Middletown. John Selden was the son of David Selden and Cynthia May. Interestingly, there is an early 20th century jelly label on the front of the needlework that may have confused some of the family history. The label appears to be from an early exhibition and reads; “No.1, Needlework picture, Moses and the Pharoh’s daughter, worked at the celebrated Patten School, Hartford, Conn. in 1806. Wrought by Miss Anne Selden, Middletown, Ct.” An additional inscription on the reverse also reads, “Miss Ann Selden, Middletown.” However, the signature on the front of the eglomese glass reads “E. Sage” supporting an attribution to Emily Sage. Another interesting connection between the Sage and Selden families can be seen in the “Genealogical Record of the Descendants of David Sage, one of the first settlers of Middletown in 1652,” by Elisha Sage, published 1878. The frontice piece for the book is an engraving of the Sage Family coat of arms, clearly featuring an eagle with garland and sheaf of wheat from the Misses Patten School. In commenting on the coat of arms the author reports; “ A fac-simile of the same was wrought in silk by an adopted daughter of the family at great labor and expense, and preserved in the family as a much prized treasure. This was found by me after I had undertaken this work, and kindly loaned for the purpose of being engraved to accompany it.” Perhaps the misattribution occurred around this time and the jelly label was added shortly there after.

The signature of E. Sage on the front lower right of the eglomese tablet confirms this
needlework was made by Emily Sage. It is quite possible that it was worked at the same time as Sage Family Coat of Arms that was illustrated by Elisha Sage in 1878. The confusion of the later jelly label inscription and entry in the Genealogical Record must come from the fact the needlework descended in the Selden family after the marriage of 1815.

This fine silk on silk needlework “The Babe Wept and She Had Compassion on Him” by Emily Sage stands as a fine example of the sophisticated works performed by accomplished young ladies in Connecticut in the early 19th century. Needleworks by various students of The Misses Patten School are found in many public collections and are recognized for their quality and beauty.

Condition: This needlework is in good condition and retains the original eglomese matte and gilt frame bearing the label of the maker, Nathan Ruggles of Hartford, Connecticut. The needlework is accompanied by a Post Treatment Report from The Textile Conservation Workshop in South Salem, New York. The procedure included removing the needlework from the frame, vaccuming, humidify and flatten original paper, creation of an insert barrier of Japanese paper, create an archival cushioned barrier, all original materials were retained and re-used. A complete copy of the Report is available upon request.

A rare and important Musical Tall Case Clock dated 1817 by Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer, NY

May 9th, 2013

A rare and important Musical Tall Case Clock featuring a Federal cherry and figured maple tall case containing an eight day brass musical movement that plays seven different songs. Signed on the enamel dial by the maker, Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer, New York and dated 1817. Brass musical movement held in a case featuring Cherry and Figured Maple with Eastern White Pine secondary wood.

Dimensions: height – 98 1/2 ins.

This rare and important Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock is only one of three tall clocks, and the only musical clock, known to have been made by Asa Munger (1777-1851) of Herkimer and Auburn, New York. Asa Munger was born October 14, 1777 in Granby, Massachusetts and was married to Polly Chapin of West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1801. Munger’s earliest known tall clock is dated 1799, and was made in Ludlow, Massachusetts. It is illustrated in The Bulletin of The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, April 1971, Volume XIV, No.9, page 1071, “Bill’s Clock, Some Facts About The Munger Family,” by William Sawtell. Munger was also a goldsmith and silversmith, with two of his touchmarks also illustrated in The NAWCC Bulletin, page 1073. The first is a rectangle showing “A.Munger”, with a secondary eagle mark, used while he was working in Herkimer and Auburn, New York between 1810 and 1818. A second touchmark reads “A.Munger & Son” and was used in Auburn, New York circa 1825. The touchmarks are also listed in “Marks of Early American Silversmiths,” by Ernest M. Currier, page 102.

The Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock dated 1817 and described above is also illustrated in The Bulletin of The National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors, April 1971, Volume XIV, No.9, page 1072. In the article Sawtell refers to a passage in the Munger Family Genalogy, “The Munger Book, Something of the Mungers, 1639 – 1914,” compiled by J.B. Munger and published in 1915. In the Genealogy, J.B. Munger recalls; “I have a hall clock made by my grandfather, Asa Munger, in Herkimer, NY in 1817. It is ingeniously made; shows days of the week and month; phases of the moon; and plays a tune every three hours; a different one each day. On Sunday it plays ‘China.’ It is a genuine grandfather’s clock.” The life and work of Asa Munger is discussed in detail in “Two Hundred Years of American Clocks and Watches,” by Chris Bailey, pages 40 and 41. It is suggested by Bailey that Munger finished his apprenticeship by 1791 and may have studied under a clockmaker in Springfield, Massachusetts. Asa Munger was the youngest of 15 siblings and had two brothers also working in New York State as goldsmiths, silversmiths, and repairmen working on jewelry, watches and clocks. In a deed from Ludlow, dated 1801, Asa is identified as a “goldsmith.” In 1803, he sells the land in Massachusetts and moves to Herkimer, New York. Bailey refers to the Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock described above when he reports; “After moving to Herkimer, Munger continued producing clocks; one made there in 1817 plays seven different tunes.” According to family tradition the Federal cherry and figured maple musical tall case clock described above descended in the family of Asa Munger’s daughter, Harriett Munger (1807-1887). The backboard is inscribed “Mrs. Hyde, Bloomington, Ill”, probably referring to Harriett who married Dr. Charles Hyde in 1836, and whose son, Valentine Mott Hyde, was born in Bloomington, Illinois in 1847.