I would get slapped if I brought this piece home today in 2008 and said, “honey, I bought you a workstand”. Not that I would attempt to – but it’s interesting to observe how times have changed in 150 years.
This is a stamped Mahogany Mitchell & Rammelsberg ladies workstand/sewing stand being sold by Cowan’s Auction on June 21st. They have it marked as being ca. 1840-1850. Although I can’t say when this particular model was first produced, it was present in the 1863 M&R catalog which is enumerated in the Victorian Details book.
There is a photo of this workstand in the book and it is suggested that this is model #3 which cost $35.00 at the time, “with silk bag & scroll leg, carved, mah & rosewood”. I don’t see any Rosewood on this particular one at Cowan’s, so I wonder if it came in either Mahogany or Rosewood vs. the combination of both.
Mitchell & Rammelsberg was acknowledged as the largest furniture maker in the world by a New Orleans newspaper in 1870. They were based in Cincinnati on the Ohio River and could send furniture up and down the Mississippi as well. They had a branch in St. Louis, upriver from New Orleans. An account by Isabella Lucy Bird documents that the factory turned out 2,500 chairs a week as one data point.
There is a Mitchell & Rammelsberg attributed Etagere also up for sale at Cowan’s made of Walnut but hand-grained to look like Rosewood like this previously sold piece by M&R. Looking at their 1863 price list, it appears that the hand-grained (faked) Rosewood was used on their lower-end pieces. I guess that means that the labor, with this particularly impressive skill, was cheaper than using real Rosewood in the first place. Their pricelist also includes American White Ash as an option for wood in their furniture and it occurs to me that I can’t remember ever seeing a labeled M&R piece made of Ash. I can’t find any on the web currently as well.