mcha chairmaking exhibitPhoto: Entrance of exhibition featuring tools and equipment from the William H. MacDonald Collection. Photo credit: McKay Imaging LLC.

FREEHOLD – Monmouth County Historical Association with host a celebration on March 5 for its exhibition Of the Best Materials and Good Workmanship: 19th Century New Jersey Chairmaking at the Museum at 70 Court Street. The exhibition will remain open through July 9, 2016.

   The celebratory reception will be held on Saturday, March 5 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 19th century America. The reception is free, open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

   This exhibition explores the diversity of products made by chairmakers in New Jersey from the late 18th century through 1900. The gallery is divided into four areas: the Craft of Chairmaking, Windsor Chairs, Common Chairs, and Factory Made Chairs.  It draws together examples by chairmakers from throughout the Garden State. Of special interest is a large collection of chairmaking tools, equipment, benches, patterns and stencils from Monmouth County collected by the late William H. MacDonald of Trenton. Macdonald, who had at one time lived in Freehold, donated the collection to the Association beginning in 1958. The exhibition represents the first time the entire MacDonald Collection has been displayed together.

   Hammond explained that the title for the exhibition is taken from the language commonly used by New Jersey chairmakers in their newspaper advertisements promoting themselves as competitive with urban craftsmen from New York, Philadelphia and elsewhere.

    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 from private collections, and are representative of both local and regional chairmakers.

   The area devoted to Windsor chairs includes the earliest known New Jersey example marked by its maker - Ezekiah Hewes from Salem about 1780. Seven other documented New Jersey Windsors are also shown.

    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 area displaying Factory Made Chairs includes perforated plywood seating furniture made by Gardener & Co. of Glen Gardner, Hunterdon County, folding chairs made by the Collignon Brothers near Closter, Bergen County, and delicate ballroom-type chairs produced by the Cooper Chair Factory of Bergenfield, Bergen County. 

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.