Furniture Detective: Glider rocker with 1888 patent is valued at $300

 

This is a glider rocking chair that my mother got from an estate auction in the early ’70s. The mechanism says “Pat May 28’88.” I have been trying to find information about it but haven’t found any.

The only other writing on the chair is not that clear but I think you can make it out. It says “PETRENDING.” I have never seen another like it. If you have any information on this chair I would be very grateful. Thanks for you help.

— R.D.M., Virginia

Ask the Experts letter "A" This glider rocker mechanism was patented May 28, 1888, by George

The glider rocker, made of birch, is very elegant looking in profile. The patent date for the glider hardware is May 28, 1888, but that doesn’t mean that is the date of manufacture — only the earliest date it could have been manufactured.

The glider rocker, made of birch, is very elegant looking in profile. The patent date for the glider hardware is May 28, 1888, but that doesn’t mean that is the date of manufacture — only the earliest date it could have been manufactured.

F. Hall of New York. He subsequently assigned half of the patent to Peter Lowentraut of Newark, N.J.

Hall-Lowentraut rockers were made primarily by the principals at first but later they did sell the hardware outright to other manufacturers so many factories began to turn out gliders after the turn of the century.

The “PETRENDING” actually says “PATPENDING,” meaning “patent pending.” This refers to the design of the wooden frame around the glider mechanism, not the metal work itself which already was patented.

There is another variation called the McLean patent rocker from around the same period which is very similar and is easily mistaken for a Lowentraut without a close inspection. Yours appears to be an early original, made primarily of birch.

The chairs are not terribly rare if you go looking for them, but they do have a lot of sales appeal, selling for around $300 in good condition.

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Letter Q for Ask Experts

We just purchased this bedroom set. I knew nothing about it when we purchased it but have done a little research and found out the basics. The set consists of a bed, dresser with oval, beveled mirror, two chairs and an octagon lamp table. I have seen your columns and remembered that 20th century mirrors are dated, so I removed all 15 screws holding the back cover to examine it. There is no date on the glass.

The bed rails attach to the bed with a bolt, not hooks. The bed holds a full-size mattress and box springs. I think the set is from the late 1800s, but I thought 19th century beds were three-quarter size.

When did they start making full-size beds?

I believe the veneer is bird’s eye maple and the rest of the set appears to be solid maple. I have found out that the style is called “faux bamboo.”

Have you ever heard of it? When I first saw the chair I thought it was real bamboo.

— T.W., Cowan, Tenn.

Ask the Experts letter "A" What a great find! You have done a good job researching your new treasure, especially the part about the mirror. All of your basic facts are correct. It is bird’s eye maple and solid turned maple, from the later part of the 19th century. The keys to the date are the bolts in the side rails and no date on the mirror. There are other reasons for there not being a date on the glass, but in this case everything seems consistent with an 1880 attribution. The answer to the bed question is a little more difficult. Beds were made in all sizes during the 18th and 19th centuries, including what roughly corresponds to full, queen and even king sizes by today’s standard. Most of the smaller beds from those centuries were homemade affairs that reflected the size of the people building them and the space available to house them rather than any notion of a particular size. By the 1850s, most factory-made beds were at least full size.

“Faux” as you have found out, merely means “false.” Faux or simulated bamboo was very fashionable in the late Victorian period but it was around long before that. Thomas Chippendale incorporated it into some of his works in the Oriental manner and the English used the form quite often in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There are numerous examples of English Georgian and Regency pieces in faux bamboo.

Your set has a sort of Eastlake look to it — yet not quite. It probably more accurately falls in the category of “Art Furniture” or the Aesthetic Movement (1880-1900).

But there is a connection to Eastlake even there. He was one of the leading designers of the Art Furniture movement, a primarily English effort to move away from the battleship furniture of the Renaissance Revival. The real impetus came from the Japanese exhibit at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876 which was so wildly popular that American furniture designers bought into the Oriental influence and faux bamboo was a natural medium in which to exercise the form. Among the leading designers of Art Furniture in America were the Herter Brothers, Pottier and Stymus, Kimbel & Cabus and Sypher and Company.

A bed very similar to yours is shown on page 216 of “Field Guide to American Antique Furniture” by Joseph Butler, Crown. It is listed in the “Eastlake/Art Furniture/Japanese Inspired” section of beds and has a date of circa 1880, probably New York. Chairs similar to yours can also be found in the “Field Guide.”

Your bird’s eye maple set is not to be confused with other sets of bird’s eye maple made in the 1920s and 1930s — a mistake I initially made when I saw your set. Sets from the Depression Era usually had a more or less Queen Anne approach to styling, a continuation of the other major influence from 1876, the Colonial Revival.

 

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