Furniture Making In Western Pennsylvania

While furniture made in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and New York has been well documented, furniture made in cities like Pittsburgh remains to be fully discovered.

When the city and environs began to be settled in the late eighteenth century it was difficult to transport furniture from East-Coast cities. It would seem much of what was used in Pittsburgh, Washington and Greensburg at that time might have been made here.

A review of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 1800 onward shows advertisements for cabinetmakers starting around 1811. By 1840 there were at least seven cabinetmakers and a number of companies including the Allegheny Chair Company on Ohio Street at the Diamond. By 1835, the book Pittsburgh’s Commercial development shows furniture being both imported and exported from Pittsburgh. Before 1811 there are quite a few advertisements from merchants in Philadelphia and Baltimore advertising wares.

There are documented pieces from Western Pennsylvania before 1800, but the extent of refined furniture manufacturing in Pittsburgh at that time remains largely unknown (at least to this author).

The early pieces that are known range from simple to sophisticated, from plain walnut to fine inlay featuring vines and leaves.

What were the influences? Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York? How much of the style is home-grown? How can Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania furniture be identified? Who were the cabinetmakers before 1800? What did the products made by the companies advertising after 1811 look like? These are questions I’d like to attempt to answer.

If you have any insight, please contact me.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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