“Hunzinger Chair” Mystery Part III

by John Werry on January 12, 2009

Sorry if this series of posts is hitting the press slowly, but that is intentional as I am getting new information real-time and I want to be sure that you get it as it rolls in.  As we’ve been exploring in the past two posts (Part I, and Part II), we’re trying to determine if Zeke Feldhaus’ chair was made by George Hunzinger.

Lookie what we have here.  It seems that, surprise, surprise, the  chair in the Bruschke & Ricke catalog which appeared to leverage the Hunzinger brace patent from 1869 happens to be a Hunzinger-manufactured chair all along.  Thanks to Rare Victorian reader John Himes sharing his with us, we can show a real-life instance of the “Reception Chair” in the Bruschke & Ricke catalog with a Hunzinger stamp on it.

bruschke ricke catalog “Hunzinger Chair” Mystery Part III

hunzinger stamp “Hunzinger Chair” Mystery Part III

Here is another example of a retail establishment reselling Hunzinger chairs.  This time it was Chicago-based W. W. Strong from “Chicago Furniture Art, Craft, & Industry, 1833-1983″ by Sharon Darling.  The chair in this Strong advertisement can be seen on pages 68 and 69 in the Hunzinger book.

hunzinger ww strong “Hunzinger Chair” Mystery Part III

So where do these tangents put us with respect to any conclusion on Zeke’s chair?  Here are our learnings:

  1. Based on the unmarked Ren Revival chairs in the Harwood book which appeared in Kimball’s Book of Designs, Hunzinger didn’t mark all his chairs.
  2. Hunzinger resold his chairs through other retailers, so if we see a Hunzinger-like chair advertised by another maker/retailer, deeper investigation may prove that the chair was indeed made by Hunzinger and not the advertiser.
  3. Hunzinger sometimes produced designs that were un-Hunzinger-ish in that they displayed more mainstream designs than we are accustomed to from him.

I have no conclusion on Zeke’s chair due to lack of documentation on his chair in particular, however, I’m leaning to it being by Hunzinger, leaving the door open for the opposite to be true.  There’s just nothing tangible at the moment.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

woodwright January 12, 2009 at 2:53 pm

It makes me wonder if Hunzinger proudly marked the chairs he sold himself, but chairs that were made by Hunzinger but not marked were sold through other retailers that requested the chairs they purchased for resale not be marked – much the way retailers today try to keep secret their supply sources of many of their items (otherwise why go through the middleman if you can go right to the supplier and possibly cut a better deal – or buy them to resell yourself, once the source is discovered). woodwright

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PaulT January 12, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Thanks for the discussion. Of coarse there is another example in Harwood’s book: Berkey & Gay’s showroom with 3 Hunzinger chairs (see Figure 102 on page 94). There is also a different stereoview of the Berkey & Gay showroom with just one of the chairs.

Paul

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renaissanceman January 13, 2009 at 12:06 am

John – You make an important point validated though manufacturers like Hunzinger that until the 20th Century patents were repeatedly violated by firms introducing identical products or in some cases actually purchasing products and placing their own labels on those products. Enforcement of patents or infringements on patents was poorly enforced and lot of companies took advantage of the lax federal laws as the time. Hence, you have many smaller firms trying to compete with the large firms, many unsuccessfully. You see this in 19th Century silverplate, lighting, etc. I have several catalogs from the 1880s and there are Meriden pieces being sold by a St. Louis Company under their label.

Renaissanceman

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zeke January 14, 2009 at 9:52 pm

That’s an amazing piece of research you’ve done here, John! More than anything I think it’s a wonderful illustration of how not to be too hasty in ones attributions. I’m leaning towards Woodwrights suggestions of Hunzinger not marking chairs he sold through other venders. Perhaps the design was only available or custom built for another retailer and never sold by Hunzinger himself with his brand on it. Perhaps we’ll never know, but….

I think I have to ask myself what is more important, who made the chair or its intrinsic value? It stands as a great example of Victorian design and whimsy. It’s actually very comfortable to sit in and looks really cool in our living room, oops i mean Parlour.

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