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Side Chair

Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
mahogany, cypress
HOA: 38 3/4; WOA: 23; DOA: 18 1/4
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Side chair: Claw and ball feet; interlaced and scrolled back straps creating pierced splat; carved volutes on the splat and carved acanthus leaves on the ears of the crest rail.

CONSTRUCTION: Crest to back stile joinery: Unpinned mortise and tenon. Splat to shoe joinery: Blind mortise and tenon. Rear seat rail/shoe construction: Rail full depth of stiles, shoe integral with rail. Seat frame joinery: Pinned mortise and tenon, frame shaped to back up knee responds. Glue blocks: A pair of triangular blocks at each side of leg stile in front (three missing); square blocks at the rear corner (both missing).

FORM: The earliest Charleston inventories indicate that most chairs were imported from England and from New England. The first evidence of chairs being made in Charleston rather than imported comes from an August 5, 1732, advertisement announcing that “at the House of the late T. Holton, Chairmaker on the Green, the same business is carried on, where Chairs and Couches are made and mended, after the same manner and at reasonable Rates” (SOUTH CAROLINA GAZETTE). This side chair is one of just five extant cabriole-leg side chairs that can be attributed to Charleston; however, it is one of just two surviving chairs with carved ball and claw feet. Despite the lack of surviving examples, a number of records in the late 1750s and in the 1760s refer to chairs with ball and claw feet.

STYLE: Many of this chair’s stylistic details can be found on English and American chairs from this period. For example, variations of the splat pattern used on this chair occur on English chairs, and are seen in America from Massachusetts south to Philadelphia, where this design seems to have been particularly popular.

CONDITION: Knee responds replaced; feet somewhat reduced from wear.

The chair descended in the Blake family and, according to family tradition, was owned by John Blake (1752-1810), a prominent merchant and Revolutionary War patriot. For his support of the Revolution, Blake was exiled to St. Augustine when Charleston fell to the British. After the Revolution he continued his record of public service, holding a number of church and governmental offices. Blake built an impressive townhouse at 58 South Battery and inherited his father’s plantation on Wappoo Creek.

Considering the chair’s circa 1760 date, it probably belonged to his father Edward Blake (d. 1795) and may be one of the “18 Mahogany Chairs” valued at 9 pounds in his probate inventory at Wappoo. Like his son, Edward Blake was a prominent merchant and partner in the firm Savage, Legare and Blake. He served in the state legislature, as a vestryman of St. Michael’s Church, and supported the patriot cause. His townhouse still stands at 1 Legare Street.

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. J. William Haynie