American Decorative Arts
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Manufacturer: Harry O. Bunnell, American
Designer: Thomas H Lee

Westport Chair

Patented 1905

Hemlock

38 3/8 x 39 1/2 x 40 in. (97.473 x 100.33 x 101.6 cm)
Mr. and Mrs. Frank J. Coyle, LL.B. 1943, Fund
2002.77.1
Westport chairs were manufactured in the small village of that name on Lake Champlain, New York, beginning about 1904. The design originated with Thomas Lee, who had a summer cottage there. He let a local carpenter, Harry Bunnell, borrow one of his chairs to use as a model to make others to sell, since Bunnell claimed he was in dire financial straits and needed to find a source of income. Eyeing the lucrative market for convalescent furniture needed to accommodate the hundreds of tubercular patients who flocked to the Adirondacks for the “wilderness cure”—weeks of quiet rest and fresh air spent on the porches of sanatoriums and cottages—Bunnell applied for a patent for the design in 1904 and was awarded one in 1905. Even though Westport is not technically in the Adirondacks, this chair type has been interpreted as Adirondack furniture. The rustic furniture produced in the Adirondacks from the Gilded Age to the Great Depression is evidence of the cultural tradition of Americans escaping from confining cities to the great outdoors to hunt, fish, recuperate, or relax.
Culture: 
American
Period: 
20th century
Classification: 
Furniture
Geography: 
Manufactured in Westport, New York
Status: 
By appointment
Provenance: 

Farmington Antiques Show, 2002. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions 2002,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2003): 137, ill.

Edward S. Cooke, Jr., “Refined Vernacular: The Work of Kenneth Fisher,” Woodwork (February 2005): 57, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.