Continuous-arm Windsor Chair

Description and History

Continuous-arm Windsor chair
  • Overall Dimensions: 22" x 25" x 37" tall
  • Seat: 19" wide x 18" deep (excluding tail)
  • Standard Seat Height: 17.5"
  • Between Arms: 17.5"
  • Available with paddle-arm or knuckle-arm.
  • Details: back view, paddle arm, knuckle arm, leg bow

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Around 1789 Philadelphia's dominance in the Windsor chairmaking field was challenged by the creation of a bold new design called the continuous-arm. Though the actual creator is not known, it has been narrowed down to a handful of chairmakers in New York whose names appear on the earliest examples. The continuous-arm was the only 18th century Windsor design to originate outside of Philadelphia. In fact it was uniquely American, never appearing in Europe.

The design became to New York what the sack-back was to Philadelphia -- a standard pattern produced in great numbers. Many branded examples are known, especially from New York City chairmakers. In fact the style was almost never found south of New York. On the other hand, New England chairmakers soon adopted the style and many chairs are known from Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The earliest continuous-arms were made with oval seats (like the sack-back), but this was soon replaced with the shield seat that we are familiar with today. Both paddle and knuckle arms were made, and more rarely the "rolled" or "ram's horn" arm. Rhode Island chairs often had decoratively turned spindles.

Though produced in great numbers, there are relatively few of the old ones around today. The explanation lies in the bend of the arm. Shaved thin at this point to accept the sharp bend, and then pierced by one of the short spindles, it represents a weakness in the design. Many antique chairs are found broken there, and it can be assumed that many more were discarded long ago for that reason. (Due to this weakness I only offer my continuous-arm with bracing spindles. I have had no reports of failure.)

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