Historical Association Exhibition Opening January 23

FREEHOLD, NJ – Monmouth County Historical Association newest exhibition Of the Best Materials and Good Workmanship: 19th Century New Jersey Chairmaking officially opens on January 23 at the Museum at 70 Court Street. The exhibition will remain open through July 9, 2016.

The reception and formal opening of the exhibition will be held on Saturday, January, 23 from 2 to 4 p.m. Curator of Museum Collections Joseph W. Hammond will be available to point out highlights of the displays, explain the various woods used in chairmaking, and trace the interest of the craft in 18t h  and 19th  century America. The reception is open to the public and refreshments will be served. Hammond was the guest curator of a similar exhibition at the Morven Museum in Princeton, and is the curator for this exhibition, the last time it will be on display in its entirety.

This exhibition explores the diversity of products made by chairmakers in New Jersey from the late 18th century through 1900 and explores four different galleries: the craft of chairmaking, Windsor chairs, common chairs, and factory made chairs.  It draws from chairmakers from throughout the Garden State, including a large collection of chairmaking tools, equipment, benches, patterns and stencils collected by William H. MacDonald of Trenton. Macdonald, who had one time worked in Freehold, donated the collection to the Association in the mid and late 20th century. The exhibition represents the first time the entire collection of tools, equipment and patterns have ever been displayed together.

Hammond explained that the name for the exhibition is taken from the language commonly used by New Jersey manufacturers in their newspaper advertisements promoting themselves against craftsmen from New York and Philadelphia.

Many of the items in the exhibition come from throughout the Garden State, from Bergen to Cumberland and Salem counties, and span the era from 1780 to 1900.  Some of the items on display are on loan from several different historical societies as well as the Rutgers archives’ special collection and are representative of both local and regional chairmakers.

Of particular interest is one section devoted to the Ware family of Cumberland County, a family that represents a unique chapter in the history of American furniture production. Nineteen members of the family spanning four generations made traditional slat back, rush-seated chairs in the Delaware Valley tradition from the late 18th century to about 1940. 

The gallery portraying factory made chairs includes perforated furniture made by Gardener and Company in 1872, a business in Glen Gardner, folding chairs popular on ocean liners dating back as far as 1868 and made by the Collignon Brothers in Closter, in Bergen County, using wood from the sawmill across the Hackensack River from the plant, and the Cooper Chair factory of Bergen, noted for its delicate chairmaking styles. 

The Gallery devoted to Windsor chairs includes the earliest known marked Windsor chair, one made by Ezekiah Hughes in Salem County in the 1780s. The exhibition at the Museum displays one of the largest collections of Windsor chairs ever shown.

Monmouth County Historical Association is a private non-profit organization that has been working to preserve history and provide educational opportunities since its founding in 1898.  The Historical Association’s Museum and Library is located at 70 Court Street in Freehold.  Museum hours are: Tuesdays - Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  The Library is open Wednesdays through Saturdays.  The Historic Houses are open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from May 1 through September 30, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  For further information about the Association, please call (732) 462-1466 or visit the web site at www.monmouthhistory.org

Monmouth County Historical Association received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.