This Windsor chair was purchased in 1892 from Lucy Harrison, a free African American woman who had been enslaved at Arlington House, the home of Martha Washington’s grandson. Harrison was the daughter of Mount Vernon housemaid Caroline Branham, who was one of four enslaved people in the room when George Washington died. This chair was believed to be part of the Washingtons’ furnishings at Mount Vernon.
Sack-back Windsor armchair with nine, plain back spindles, double-baluster-spool-and-taper-turned arm posts, a D-shaped, saddled seat, and four splayed, double-baluster-spool-and-taper-turned legs joined by H-mounted stretchers. The continuous bow of the upper back is rounded at front and back; its ends are inserted into mortises on the arm rail. The back spindles are tenoned into the seat and bow; four of them, two on either side of the center three, extend through the bow. The spindles of the lower section are thickened. The arm rail terminates in tripartite, carved knuckles; it is supported on the sides by three thickened spindles which are tenoned into the seat and rail and extend through the rail and are double-wedged. The arm supports are tenoned into the seat and the rail; they extend through the rail and are wedged. The plank seat has a slight pommel at front center and a deep groove outlining the front of the spindle area. The legs are tenoned through the seat and are double-wedged, and inscribed with a faint line just below the join with the side stretchers. The stretcher support has single-swell side stretchers and a medial stretcher with a single, central swell flanked by ornamental rings; all the stretchers are inscribed with a faint line around the thickest part of the swell. Traces of a succession of finishes (green and black) are visible on the underside of the seat and the proper right front leg.
Remnants of a textile label are nailed to the underside of the seat. The legs appear to have been cut down by 2-3".
Tulip poplar (seat), maple (arm supports and legs), ash (spindles), paint
Overall (H x W x D): 35 3/4 in. x 22 1/2 in. x 17 1/2 in. (90.81 cm x 57.15 cm x 44.45 cm)
Gift of Mrs. George Hearst, Vice Regent for California, 1892
Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here