Collections › MESDA Collection › Arm Chair

Arm Chair

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany –ash
HOA: 53 1/2; WOA: 27 1/8
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Masonic arm chair: Exceptionally tall back; crest with painted design of compass and square and terminating in ears with carved flowers; pierced splat; cabriole front legs terminating in ball and claw feet and shaped back legs terminating in blocked feet; arms terminating in carved flowers on each side of arm; simple curved arm support.

CONSTRUCTION: Crest to back stile joinery: Unpinned mortise and tenon. Splat to shoe joinery: Blind tenoned. Rear seat rail/shoe construction: Seat rail is the full depth of the leg stiles; shoe made as a separate piece. Seat frame joinery: Pinned mortise and tenon. Glue blocks: No evidence of use. Arm support/seat frame joinery: Thumb mold of seat frame notched to receive rabbet of arm supports, which are not tenoned into the frame; supports attached to seat frame with two screws from inside frame. Arm joinery: Shouldered mortise and tenon, unpinned.

FORM: This is the only Charleston Masonic chair surviving from the colonial period. Whether or not this chair was intended for the lodge master or for a warden is unkown, but the exceptionally tall back and even the number of the slip seat and frame of the chair–both “I”–argue for the former, even though the chair is far less elaborate than other southern master’s chairs. The painted decoration of the crest, containing the symbolic Masonic compass and square, appears to date from the nineteenth century. Beneath the current paint are the clearly scribed lines delineating the form of a level, another Masonic device.

WOODS: Mahogany with ash slip seat, modern green leather cover.

This chair was made for Union Kilwinning Lodge No. 4 in Charleston. The warrant for this lodge was granted 3 May 1755 by the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina. The membership of the lodge was predominantely Scottish; the name of the lodge, in fact, was derived from the Abbey of Kilwinning, considered to be the cradle of Scottish Freemasonry.
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Theo L. Taliaferro