Hitchcock Antique Furniture – 1818
Throwback Thursday take us back to 1818 with a look into a Connecticut furniture company. Lambert Hitchcock of Cheshire, Connecticut was a skilled master woodworker schooled at the famed Cheshire Academy and apprenticed under Silas Cheney. Hitchcock opened a furniture factory in the town of Riverton located in Barkhamsted Connecticut. The large Hitchcock Chair Company Factory Mill was powered by the Still River a branch of the Farmington River. The factory had over 100 employees and became so well known the town was renamed as Hitchcocksville. The Hitchcock Chairs were made of cherry, maple or beech; woods local to the area. The Hitchcock-style chair combined several popular styles of the times such as Sheraton, Empire and Baltimore styles.
Lambert Hitchcock’s great success was attributed to his ability to build his quality chairs using a new style of mass production. He had studied with great clock-makers in Connecticut and had seen master clock-maker Eli Terry mass produce wooden clock parts. Terry used an assembly line process to cut different parts, then assembled many clock varieties on an assembly line. Hitchcock used this same production method to make the parts for his chairs. His chairs were the first pieces of furniture sold with semi-assembly required. This mass production made Hitchcock furniture affordable to the public and allowed the factory to produce over 15,000 chairs a year!
Hitchcock antique furniture is highly sought after by collectors. Most genuine pieces of Hitchcock furniture can be dated and identified by a stencil marking along the back or underneath. In 1825, the company moved to a larger factory and began labeling the pieces “L. HITCHCOCK HICTCHCOCKS-VILLE CONN. WARRENTED”. Then in 1832, Lambert Hitchcock went through business difficulties and merged with his brother-in-law, Arba Alford, to form a new company. The stencil was changed to read “HITCHCOCK. ALFORD & CO. CONN WARRENTED”. There was an unfortunate mislabeling of backward N’s on the stencil. This company then dissolved in 1844 and Lambert Hitchcock went on to open a new Hitchcock Furniture Company in Unionville, Connecticut. The label was again changed to include the Unionville location. Lambert Hitchcock died in 1852 and The Hitchcock Company was closed.
In 1946, John Kenney and Douglas Roberts, a descendant of Hitchcock, renovated the old Hitchcock factory and reopened Hitchcock Chairs. They manufactured replicas of Hitchcock’s famous furniture. The company stenciled the signature emblem on the furniture pieces. The Stencil reads the same as the first stencil did in 1825, only it incorporates the backward N’s in the wording. If your Hitchcock furniture has the original style stencil but with backward N’s it was produced after 1946. The company has continued to change hands over the years, but is still in operation in Connecticut.
The early pieces of furniture were painted black or dark green and the then using a stencil they would apply a bronzing powder to create various decorative patterns of flowers, leaves and cornucopias. Yellow-ochre striping and gold banding on the turns of the legs were added by hand. This decorative enhancement is the classic Hitchcock look. The seats of the chairs were made of cane, woven-rush or planks. The later pieces were made of lighter wood colors. The Past Antiques Marketplace features many pieces of famous Hitchcock furniture available for purchase. Visit The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.
Check back next week for another Throwback Thursday!