Straw in dining chair cushions-- does this indicate a date?

avaeiaJuly 8, 2012

Hi friends,

I just bought a lovely antique dining table and chairs. When I went to re-upholster the chairs I saw the cushions were stuffed -- well stuffed is the wrong word--the cushions had a straw layer under cotton batting. Does this indicate a date range of when the chairs were made?

Thanks for any help.

I can post a picture if that helps. :)

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lindac

I am sure someone must know the end of the time when straw ( or was it wood shavings?) was used for stuffing....but I don't.
I could better tell the approximate date by the style and the way it's made.
Linda C

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 1:47PM
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calliope

Linda is probably right, in that it's not straw, but excelsior (wood shavings). I have seen that in fairly recent furniture, and by fairly recent, I mean as late as fifties/sixties. From what I can find on the inet, its use was as early as 1870s, when machines to shred it were patented. So that is too broad a range to come to any idea of production date. Of course a picture would help.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 2:17PM
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avaeia

To me it looks like straw-- here's a picture...Do you think it's long wood shavings?
Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 5:37PM
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avaeia

I think you 2 are right! It must be excelsior! Thank you. I learned something new! I really appreciate your help. I am a newbie.
Best wishes...

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 5:42PM
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lindac

Sorry....looks like straw to me!...Excelsior is finer and gets powdery....It was also used, but I have never come across it.
Let's see the rest of the chair.

Here is a link that might be useful: excelsior

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 6:13PM
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calliope

I have seen lots and lots of excelsior used as stuffing in old furniture, it was quite common. No, it does not get 'powdery' and ages quite well. It also isn't necessarily 'fine' either and can be quite coarse. You know how pictures are on monitors, I can't really tell. However, straw is hollow inside, since it's just the shaft of a grass and wood shavings aren't, of course.

You would be astounded in what all was used as stuffing or padding in furniture and mattresses, including moss, seaweed, fur, feathers, straw, animal hair, excelsior, cotton batting, and kapok. Moss was very common at one time in mattresses. Please take a picture of your set, it's really necessary to even have a clue at its age.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 8:48PM
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sunnyca_gw

Horsehair(also used in pads under carpet until probably late 1960's(we had it put in new in 1967- later found very allergic to it) but got a 1940's desk chair stuffed with it. Also got a chair with ladder back with cane seat & when went to take seat apart found 1940's newspapers used as stuffing! Sure looks like straw so try opening piece of it. I've had excelsior that was very fine & curly kind- of not like that. What does chair look like?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 9:26PM
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lindac

I have a sofa...Empire, that was stuffed with excelsior.....and the bottom was covered with black baize....and every time someone sat on it, a fine dust filtered down, through the black fabric.
No it's not powder post beetles....just 150 year old excelsior!
The sofa has been redone....no more excelsior dust on the floor.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 11:46PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

It looks like shredded palm fronds.
Real excelsior, due to the manuf. process, is curly, so you'd think that even in a crushed state, it would be matted together with some interlocking of the strands.
Think of the plastic easter-basket "grass" but made from wood; that's excelsior.
Casey

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 8:16AM
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calliope

Probably just plain dust, Linda. Casey very well could be. Like I said they used just about any fibre, if it could be dried. It's not a major issue anyway, we sure as hey can't identify a dining set by it if the OP doesn't provide any more information than a picture of some stuffing.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2012 at 9:52AM
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lazy_gardens

A [picture of the chairs would be much more helpful in identifying the date than pictures of the stuffing.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 11:23AM
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aprileigh81

I realize this is an old forum, but I have a similar issue & hope you all can help! Any ideas on the date of this chair?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 2:02PM
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aprileigh81

I realize this is an old forum, but I have a similar issue & hope you all can help! Any ideas on the date of this chair?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 2:04PM
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aprileigh81

The chair

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 2:06PM
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aprileigh81

The nails in the upholstery construction

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 2:08PM
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chibimimi

At a guess, 1850-1870. Is it walnut? Was the seat originally caned? I believe it might have been and the upholstery was added later when the caning wore out.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 4:15PM
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aprileigh81

I believe it is walnut, but I'm not sure. Your thoughts about it being caned originally may be correct. I've been wondering why there are other nail holes in it under the upholstery. I don't have any history on it though because I bought it at a second hand store. Any idea on value? Thanks for your help by the way!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 6:21PM
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hounds_x_two

I have walnut chairs with cane seats that are very similar to yours. My great grandparents started housekeeping with them in 1865.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 4:33PM
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jemdandy

Rather than nails, I think those would be called tacks. or furniture tacks.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 1:18AM
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Suo54

In beginning to recover this spring type rocker I too found what looks like straw. There are joints and a lumen in some of the pieces. It's wrapped in burlap and muslin with some cotton batting and there is some orange colored clay-like material. Anyone have any thoughts about the age. The tacks look like the photo of previous post. The spring device has metal screws however.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 5:12PM
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Suo54

Here's view of the seat

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 5:50PM
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mfrog

It's an Eastlake platform rocker. They were popular in the late Victorian era, 1885 - 1905 ish. Good luck with the reupholstering.
They still use the same kind of tacks in some traditional upholstery shops, although most use staples now. I took several classes in upholstering & had to learn how to use tacks. mfrog

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 8:41PM
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Suo54

Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 4:34PM
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pgibson1947

can you tell me anything about this chair? I want to paint it and recover it. I know that would ruin the value, but I don't want to ever sell it. any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2015 at 2:47PM
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lazy_gardens

Pgibson ... arm chair in the typical mish-mash of trendy design bits taken from various eras. I'd guess 1930s or so, from the springs and fabric. Painting it will not wreck its value because it really never had it, except as a place to sit.

That never was top-grade furniture, so I'd clean it up and see what the wood looks like. Some of them are pretty good wood, some are a cheaper wood stained to look like the high priced stuff.

You'll need to replace or at least retie the springs and reupholster it. Check the web for a how-to on a chair that resembles yours. Getting the springs right is critical. You can buy new zig-zag springs on-line or at an upholstery supply.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2015 at 6:59AM
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