Rare Victorian - The William P. and Emma C. Bancroft Bed

The William P. and Emma C. Bancroft Bed

Emma C Bancroft Bed 777415 The William P. and Emma C. Bancroft Bed

Emma C Bancroft Bed 777415 The William P. and Emma C. Bancroft Bed
Recently, during one of my wife’s painting weekends (she is making sure all the white walls in our home’s upper floors adopt a real hue), we moved one of the beds away from the wall and I noticed this label on the back of the headboard. Not quite sure how I missed it as you tend to get very intimate with big furniture as it travels up and around stairs when entering the home.

Unfortunately, the label is missing a section due to it spanning two separate boards, which in moving independently of one another, frayed the label. I’m not very good at interpolating missing text (now I know what archaeologists face when reading hieroglyphics that are half chipped away), but essentially it says that the bed was one of the first pieces of furniture that Emma C. Bancroft purchased when she and her husband William P. Bancroft got married.

I was surprised to find out that William P. Bancroft and his wife Emma lived in the Wilmington, DE area and were one of the wealthiest families in Delaware at the turn of the century. They made their fortune via a cotton mill on the Brandywine river that was originally founded by his father in 1831. William was at one time the president of the Wilmington Board of Park Commissioners and he donated 80 acres to the city with the stipulation that it be used for a parks. According to the Wilmington DE website,

The late nineteenth century saw the development of a comprehensive park system, “Godfathered” by William Bancroft, a successful Wilmington businessman with a concern for the preservation of open parkland in Wilmington who was influenced by the work of Frederick Law Olmsted. Rockford Park and Brandywine Park owe their creation to his generous donation of land and efforts.

Just as it is with researching the history of one’s historic home, it’s equally fun to find that your furniture has a particular history and in this case, I was fortunate that a clue was left behind for me to learn it.

If you don’t hear from me for days it is because my 1 year old Gateway desktop computer has just died and is in need of an OS repair. I had a photo of the bed itself but the desktop died before I could add it to this post. Let’s hope I can restore all my files of importance.

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  • Emeriol - March 3, 2008

    Interesting that a simple label and inspire one to become more involved in collecting. Until I discoved the Hunzinger mark under a beat up odd looking chair I was refinishing for my wife, I had no interest at all in furniture history. Now, I run a blog deicated to George Hunzinger furniture. Who knew a few words could make such a difference:
    The Hunzinger Patent Duplex Spring: One drop of sewing machine oil on each hing to stop squeak.

  • Stephanie - August 19, 2011

    Do you still have it? The Bancrofts are my dissertation topic. How exciting.

    • John Werry - August 19, 2011

      Yes, still have it.

      • Stephanie - August 20, 2011

        If you ever want to sell it I’d be interested. I’ve spent 8 years with the Bancrofts. They are related by marriage to the Clarks of Clark Shoes. William and Emma’s daughter Sarah married Roger Clark in 1900.

        • Stephanie - August 20, 2011

          I’ve just figured out that you probably do want to sell it since that’s what you do! When I read the blog I thought it was just your exciting personal possession. I can’t find it on your website. Please contact me about it at stephaniespa@gmail or shfield@udel.edu. Many thanks!

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