I get emails from site visitors all the time with items to show me and I enjoy reading the messages and looking at the images that they forward to me. I never tire of Victorian antique eye-candy. This particular message I received was very different however, as it has spawned a mystery that is not yet solved for me or the chair’s owner.
I received an email from Kathie at the end of May saying that she had one of the 1857 House of Representative Chairs by Bembe & Kimbel:
I have just this week identified a chair I have had for 20 years. It is one of the House of Representative Chairs from 1857. I obtained this chair 20 years ago from a pickup truck on it’s way to the dump. It was in with palm fronds, branches and assorted other junk . My children who where with me at the time where humiliated when I asked the guy if I could have the chair. The wood was dry from having sat out in our Arizona sun but I was able to bring the grain back to life. How many of these chairs have been accounted for, I know there where 250 to begin with. I have to wonder how many met the fate mine almost did. Yes I am interested in selling it. I will try to obtain pictures this week to send you. The cushion was gone but the back rest and armrests still have traces of the leather on then and the wheels are in tact.
I took a quick glance at the photos she gave me and thought to myself that she had saved an $18,000-$23,000 chair from the dump and what a good story that was and how lucky she was to have it.
But something was eating at me like it was with this “Merklen” chair.
The carvings on Kathie’s chair as well as the patina and color seemed to be not what I had remembered. Granted, Kathie’s chair sustained some exposure to the elements, but that wasn’t what was bothering me.
I used the handy-dandy search function on Rare Victorian to dig up the old posts I had done on the previous chairs sold at auction so that I could get some reference images. I noticed some distinct differences that led me to believe that the chairs were similar overall in form and design but different in the details.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of the story.