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by Roberta A. Mayer

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An Alien Ancillary Armchair Attributed to R.W. Bates & Co. of Chicago

R.W. Bates & Co. was a high-end artist of custom appliance and interiors in the backward 19th century. Based in Chicago, the business had able and clandestine audience aloft the United States. Sharon Darling drew absorption to this close in her battleground book Chicago Furniture: Art, Craft, and Industry, 1833-1983. 1 Today, it is best accustomed in the ambience of the Samuel M. Nickerson abode in Chicago (now the Richard H. Driehaus Museum), breadth it was one of three firms affianced in capacity the abundant interiors. At the aforementioned time, the appliance of R.W. Bates & Co. is about unknown, and so I was acutely aflame to ascertain one of the company’s alien ancillary chairs.

R.W. Bates & Co., Chicago, Illinois, chair, about 1888, maple, 36½” x 17¼” x 17½”.

Richard W. Bates was aloft in Massachusetts. He began alive in Chicago in 1868 as a artist at the F. Porter Thayer & Co. appliance branch and remained there until 1870, aback he formed a affiliation with John Westworth.2 For the abutting two years, Bates and Westworth advertised themselves as “Designers and Carvers.”

By 1872 the close was accepted as Bowles & Bates and was amid at South Canal Street; it specialized in appliance manufacture.3 The abode was the aforementioned in 1874, but the business was now articular as R.W. Bates & Co.4 By 1880, the aggregation was anchored on East Adams Street, breadth it remained until it was attenuated in the aboriginal 1890s.5

During the 1870s and abnormally in the after-effects of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Bates’s casework were in demand. Until about 1874 his business bogus custom cabinetwork for the Pullman Palace Car Company.6 After R.W. Bates & Co. was established, the close began to actualize artful appliance for bounded residences, churches, and accessible halls.7 It bogus the “Eastlake Gothic” designs of P.B. Wight for the Chicago Literary Club in 1875.8 R.W. Bates & Co. abutting with the Novelty Cabinet Works in 1876 to assassinate the autogenous of the new Chicago Club Abode advised by architects Treat & Foltz. Bates’s close additionally credible at the 1876 Inter-State Industrial Exposition in Chicago, showcasing a “massive and cher Gothic bedchamber set in ebonized copse adequate hardly with gold and color.” There were 40 panels on two of the pieces that had been corrective “with oil colors on gold breadth in the Japanese manner” by Frederick N. Atwood.9

In the summer of 1879, a anew accelerating artist called Irving K. Pond came to Chicago to do some acting assignment for the artist William LeBaron Jenney. This segued to a full-time job with R.W. Bates & Co., which Pond after described: “I, too, formed for R.W. Bates, who at that time had a branch on the east end of the lot on which the Republic Architectonics now stands, at the southeast bend of State and Adams streets. In this branch Bates bogus abounding of the accomplished interiors advised by himself or from the offices of the best architects of the city—Burnham and Root, Burling and Whitehouse; Treat and Foltz, etc.” 10

Pond backward with Bates for about six months, and he recalled designing “much aboriginal and at that time ‘new art’ furniture,” as able-bodied as a ample custom Louis XVI carpeting that was after alloyed in a distinct allotment in France. Pond’s recollections abduction the ambit of the business—conceptual design, custom branch work, subcontracting of specialty items, and bartering showrooms. After Pond larboard R.W. Bates & Co., he confused on to assignment in the boondocks of Pullman, aloof south of Chicago.

Another alluring glimpse into the operations of R.W. Bates & Co. was recorded in a May 1881 letter from D. Davis, a artist in Chicago, to an artist called Mason in Detroit.11 At the time, Davis was active by the Bates close and was alive on the autogenous of the Samuel M. Nickerson abode on Erie Street in Chicago, which had been advised by Burling and Whitehouse. It was congenital over the years from 1879 to 1883, and the interiors were appointed by William August Fiedler (of Addison & Fiedler), George A. Schastey & Co. of New York, and R.W. Bates & Co., but the specific contributions of Bates are not certain. As acclaimed earlier, this arresting architectonics survives today as the Richard H. Driehaus Museum.

Another important Chicago activity that included R.W. Bates & Co. as one of the decorators was the “Palmer Castle” on Lake Shore Drive, now destroyed. Advised by Henry Ives Cobb and Charles S. Frost for Bertha Honoré and Potter Palmer, the anatomy was amorphous in 1882 and completed in 1884. Much of the autogenous assignment was apprenticed to Herter Brothers, awful admired New York designers and decorators who took allegation of the hall, the dining room, and several apartments.12 Lockwood de Forest, a aloft accomplice of Louis C. Tiffany, provided an East Indian architectonics for the Palmers’ accession allowance and cartoon room.13 R.W. Bates & Co. provided the designs for Mrs. Palmer’s “Moorish bedroom.”

Davis’s letter reveals that in accession to the firm’s assignment in Chicago, R.W. Bates & Co. had a ample activity in Louisville, Kentucky. Likewise, the close had afresh accomplished assignment at the “palatial home” of Alexander Mitchell on Grand Avenue in Milwaukee (now the Wisconsin Club on Wisconsin Avenue). This activity was, no doubt, accompanying to the awe-inspiring bells planned for Mitchell’s niece: “The conjugal parlor, which was arraigned by Mr. C. [sic] W. Bates, of Chicago, was complete in Moorish style. The appliance and decorations formed a reproduction of the marvels of the Alhambra. The adornment was arraigned at Cairo, Egypt, from appropriate designs by R.W. Bates, of Chicago.”14

And there were additionally projects in New York City, including a cartoon allowance and a dining allowance in an bearding mansion. In fact, Richard Bates was in New York on business as Davis was putting pen to cardboard in 1881.

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Beginning in 1890, the close of R.W. Bates & Co. had continuing agitation with smoke authorization violations.15 The aboriginal 1890s were additionally a aeon of bread-and-butter abasement that culminated with the Panic of 1893. Regular business seems to accept connected conceivably at a slower clip until 1892-93, aback the close started liquidating its banal of “rich and affected furniture” at accessible auctions managed by Elison, Flersheim & Co.16 Among the items listed were “Persian and Moorish chairs.” By 1894 R.W. Bates was announcement food for hire on Adams Street.17

Against this accomplishments it may assume hasty that the appliance of R.W. Bates & Co. has accustomed actual little abstraction aloft the background laid out by Sharon Darling, but there are several affidavit why. First, there are no actual business records. Second, the close does not arise to accept labeled its work. This is not abnormal for high-end custom orders, but it makes the job of the appliance historian absolutely difficult. Moreover, the close bogus its own designs, as able-bodied as the designs of acclaimed architectural firms, so it allegedly did not accept a recognizable, signature style. At the aforementioned time, the close acutely had ability in designing alien décor.

A few years ago, I purchased a analytical ancillary armchair from an antiques boutique in axial Pennsylvania. Crafted from maple, with bird’s-eye apery credible on the collapsed apparent of the cocked back, the armchair is simple and aseptic on the one hand, and alien and all-embracing on the other. The best arresting architectonics aspect is a pierce-carved console with apple-pie two-dimensional fret-saw abstraction in a floral/geometric arrangement affected from an East Indian jali or broken screen.18 This adorning console is centered on the aback of the armchair and accurate by baby bullets aural a bifold ellipsoidal filigree that is added bizarre with a scalloped swag-like basal rail. Overall, the aback displays a able use of arrangement and proportion. The aerial beeline advanced legs abolish in bound annal anxiety with diminutive casters. The rear legs alteration from the boxlike high stile to a anatomy that is angled and alluringly curvaceous.

With the abatement of the chair’s dust cover, I apparent that the archetypal webbing, braid springs, and the aboriginal 19th-century burlap and capacity were all gone. Although the all-embracing armchair anatomy was in accomplished condition, a allotment of plywood had been installed on top of the bench balustrade and now supports the avant-garde upholstery materials.

It bound became bright why this odd upholstery address had been used—the armchair is active and dated! Someone capital to bottle and at the aforementioned time draw absorption to the annotations. In pencil on the central of the advanced abuse is the following: “These chairs were upholstert by August [Miller ?] Chicago Ill Workt for R. [W. ?] Bates 13th January 1888 [possibly 1889].”

Admittedly, the pencil calligraphy is not absolutely legible, abnormally back some of it was accounting on top of a asperous area, but Chicago and Bates and 1888 (or 1889) are pieces of advice that are absolutely constant and acquiesce for allegation of this armchair to R.W. Bates & Co. of Chicago. Moreover, August Miller can be articular as a Chicago upholsterer.19 It is an acutely attenuate find.20

The pencil comment on the central of the advanced rail.

Stylistically, this ancillary armchair calls to apperception the “art furniture” explored by Louis Comfort Tiffany during the aboriginal years of his career. For example, an oak folding awning that Tiffany advised for Dr. William T. Lusk about 1882 displays agnate collapsed apery in three altered variations aggressive by Oriental fretwork.21 In his 1879 agency for the Kemp salon, Tiffany advised “Moorish” ancillary chairs and armchairs that were accomplished in white holly—a light-colored copse visually affiliated to maple.22 Likewise, alpha in 1881, Lockwood de Forest, who collaborated with Tiffany, offered appliance designs based on East Indian architectural carvings.23

The backs of de Forest’s teakwood ancillary chairs about featured aboveboard panels of bore abstraction aural a ellipsoidal anatomy that was topped with a adroit scalloped acme rail. De Forest was additionally a acclaimed antecedent for blush sandstone jali acquired in Agra, the armpit of the Taj Mahal and adjacent Fatehpur Sikri. Aback de Forest set up his New York showrooms at 9 East 17th Street in 1883, his appliance and his Indian stonework were on appearance and accessible for purchase. He appear angle of his showrooms, calm with examples of Indian architecture, in his two books, Indian Domestic Architectonics (1885) and Indian Architectonics and Ornament (1887). His sandstone jali featured geometric designs of the array that aggressive the R.W. Bates & Co. maple ancillary chair.

As mentioned above, both de Forest and R.W. Bates & Co. were assassin by the Potter Palmers from 1882 to 1884, and both provided alien interiors. With the analysis of this annotated maple armchair dating to about 1888, we accept new acumen into the abandoned appliance of R.W. Bates & Co. In this case, it looks as admitting the close took a cue from Lockwood de Forest’s East Indian artful but offered its own characteristic and all-embracing interpretation. It will be absorbing to see if added assignment can now be identified.

Roberta A. Mayer is assistant emerita, art history, Bucks County Community College, Newtown, Pennsylvania. She has appear abundantly on Lockwood de Forest and is currently researching Louis C. Tiffany’s paintings. Best afresh she was bedfellow babysitter for Becoming Tiffany: From Hudson Valley Painter to Gilded Age Tastemaker at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, New York.

NOTES:

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1. Sharon Darling, Chicago Furniture: Art, Craft, & Industry 1833-1983 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1984), 171. I am beholden to the columnist for her generosity in administration added abstruse research.

2. Ibid., 23, 234-35. Charles Tobey acquired allotment buying of F. Porter Thayer’s appliance branch in 1865. In 1870, the year that R.W. Bates larboard to alpha his own business, Charles Tobey and Francis (Frank) Bassett Tobey abutting with F. Porter Thayer to anatomy the Thayer & Tobey Appliance Company.

3. “Business Directory,” Chicago Tribune (February 19, 1872).

4. “Wanted—Male Help,” Chicago Daily Tribune (January 18, 1874).

5. “Wanted—Male Help,” Chicago Daily Tribune (March 28, 1880).

6. Darling, 171.

7. Ibid.; e.g., “Religious News,” Chicago Daily Tribune (February 15, 1874).

8. Frederick William Gookin, The Chicago Literary Club: A History of its First Fifty Years (Chicago: Printed for the Chicago Literary Club, 1926), 33.

9. “The Inter-State Exhibition,” American Artist and Architectonics News 1 (September 30, 1876), 319.

10. Letter to the editor from Irving K. Pond, Artist and Artist 114, no. 1 (July 1933), 60-61; see additionally David Swan and Terry Tatum, eds., The Autobiography of Irving K. Pond: The Sons of Mary and Elihu (Oak Park, Illinois: The American Academy of Arts and Letters and The Hyoogen Press Inc., 2009), 78, 80-81, 83, 178.

11. Letter to Mason from D. Davis, May 1881, Artist and Artist 114, no. 1 (July 1933), 59-60; see additionally D. Davis, untitled letter, May 1881, Samuel M. Nickerson Papers, Archive of the American College of Surgeons, Chicago, Illinois, 232 W. Washington St., Chicago, 5/22, 1881.

12. George W. Sheldon, “Mr. Potter Palmer’s House,” Artful Country Seats (New York: D. Appleton, 1886), 195-99.

13. Julian Cavalier, American Castles (South Brunswick, New Jersey, and New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1973), 30.

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14. “Gorgeous Nuptials,” Jackson Weekly Citizen (August 23, 1881).

15. “To Push the Smoke Makers,” Chicago Daily Tribune (August 3, 1890).

16. “Rich and Affected Appliance at Auction,” Chicago Daily Tribune (October 9, 1892).

17. “To Rent,” Chicago Daily Tribune (March 9, 1894).

18. See Susan Stronge, Indian Architectural Designs (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989), plates 2, 13, and 18.

19. See The Lakeside Annual Directory of the City of Chicago. 1885 (Chicago: Chicago Directory Co., 1885), 964. Among the abounding individuals called August Miller, one is listed as an upholsterer: “Miller, August, upholstr. abode 19 Nutt.”

20. The armchair was additionally annotated in ink on the central of the ancillary rail: “This armchair was adipose Feb 28 1959 by Karl & Margaret [Drew Burden ??] for themselves [???] Ave Jacksonville Florida.”

21. Rosalind M. Pepall, ed., Tiffany Glass: A Passion for Colour (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Accomplished Arts, 2010), 47.

22. One of the Tiffany chairs from the Kemp salon is now in the accumulating of the Newark Museum, 96.87.

23. See Roberta A. Mayer, Lockwood de Forest: Capacity the Gilded Age with a Passion for India(Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 2008).

Originally appear in the November 2018 affair of Maine Antique Digest. © 2018 Maine Antique Digest

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