William Buttre’s Eagle Fancy Chair in the American Economy and Domestic Interior, 1805-25

This post is the seventh in a series featuring student papers from “Material Life in America,” a course taught by WPAMC director Dr. J. Ritchie Garrison. The papers address objects with connections to New York in the collection of the Winterthur Museum. Each student began by closely examining his or her object, and over the course of the semester situated the object in increasingly broad contexts of production and use. For many of the students, these projects were a first foray into the world of material culture and Winterthur’s collections, and yielded surprising and challenging results.

Griffin_Figure 1Eagle fancy chair, William Buttre, Albany, New York, 1815-­‐18. Beech, poplar, maple, ash 1952.50. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

Introduced as high style items at the turn of the nineteenth century, fancy chairs and their derivatives enjoyed popularity among American consumers up until the Civil War. Grounded in research on the Eagle Fancy Chair in the Winterthur Museum collection and its manufacturer William Buttre, this paper traces developments in style, domestic interiors, and manufacturing that sustained this form of seating furniture. The paper uses evidence from New York probate inventories and documented family collections, to reconsider conclusions about the placement of fancy chairs in nineteenth-century homes. Account books, advertising ephemera, and periodicals provide details of Buttre’s and his competitors’ business and retail practices. Through these and other sources, the paper identifies eternal patterns of domestic and commercial life in an object that is also thoroughly expressive of the Federal era.

Read it here!: William Buttre’s Eagle Fancy Chair in the American Economy and Domestic Interior, 1805-25 by Amy Griffin, WPAMC class of 2016

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *