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Patterns from circa 1890/1900?

Posted by cearbhaill (My Page) on
Sun, Dec 2, 12 at 10:53

Were patterns used for furniture by working class people just trying to furnish their homes?

I recently inherited a wooden porch swing that was built by my great grandfather sometime before the late 1890's. We don't know the exact date but we do know that it came with them from Virginia through the Pound Gap to Kentucky in 1897.

The thing is- my ancestors were fairly poor farmers and this swing is so well built. The slats of the seat are arranged in a gentle curve to fit the back of your legs, the back is slanted perfectly, the whole thing is balanced and just immaculately built.
I know there was more pride in workmanship back in the day (for many people) but I can't fathom a layperson designing this swing.

And it has been through the mill- covered wagon transport, floods, decades of storage in soggy outbuildings- it was even traded for work done after the flood of '57... and searched for for months to get it back when my grandmother asked where it was.
Is it unusual for items of this age to hold up so well?
It is is such good condition!

Mainly wondering about how designs were come up with back then- any thoughts you might have or historical sites you can point me to are appreciated.
Mainly I just wanted to brag about my cool swing :)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Patterns from circa 1890/1900?

Lots of woodworking patterns were available in books and magazines.

Post a picture of the swing and we can try to find the pattern or what influenced him.

RE: Patterns from circa 1890/1900?

There were books. Probably the most famous was Thomas Chippendale's The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director More sophisticated cabinet shops might have used classical Greek orders for proportions on things.

Another likely source is that patterns were passed down from master to apprentice. This is why appraisers can often designate a piece from a certain geographic area based on subtle proportions. Philadelphia pieces will vary slightly from Boston or Rhode Island pieces.

Patterns for some things were often made on a thin piece of wood and reused. You'll often see patterns for things like chair and table legs hanging on the wall in old photos and drawings of shops.

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