It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s A… Gragg?

Certainly the undertaking to study, understand, and replicate the “Elastic Chairs” of c.1810 Boston chairmaker Samuel Gragg has and continues to consume much of my interest, time and energy.  There’s just something about them.  It seems as though I always have a couple in progress in the shop or on the finishing bench, and indulge in some far-afield explorations of the basic bentwood technology.

Recently my friend JustinB dropped me a note to inform me of an upcoming auction for a stamped “S.Gragg/Boston” chair of a different sort.  Thanks to the research of Michael Podmaniczky and Patricia Kane we presume that Gragg only made his Elastic Chairs for a few years before turning his attentions to other, more profitable chairmaking enterprises.  Having now made many Elastic Chairs I can appreciate Gragg’s transition from making indescribably elegant chairs that took a lot of time to make towards making slightly less elegant but definitely much less time-consuming chairs in the Windsor milieu or even simpler forms.  It is useful to remember that artisans of the past were not generally engaged in contemplative work, they were trying to just survive and often never more than several days or weeks away from hunger or even malnutrition.  Generating any kind of cash flow was at the top of the “to do” list.  Simpler chairs that could be made in a matter of hours rather than a matter of days fits that bill.

So I bid on the chair in this on-line auction, taking the risk in that I had not examined the chair in any way other than scouring the on-line images.  Much to my astonishment the final price was about 1/10th of what I expected, and I won the auction.  I still have not seen the chair and it is winding its way to The Fortress of Solitude.  When it arrives and I check it out, I’ll let you know even if it is phony baloney.  In that case I’ve spent a completely acceptable amount of money on an idiosyncratic rocking chair for the front porch.  If it’s a “real deal” I will own a piece of history I will treasure, but it still may wind up on the front porch.

Stay tuned.

PS  I apologize if the chair’s images are funky, they were in a format my primitive software would not process as I downloaded them directly from the auction page.  Good thing I have a new compewder I am bringing on-line.