Finally, I was able to peruse both of the books I originally ordered from storage a week ago. After the snag of UPENN having lost the book that I was positive I would be able to find my chairs, I found the only other copy within a reasonable drive, was also in Philadelphia at the Phila Art Museum Library. Learning my lesson on the lost book, I called ahead. Was told that yes, indeed the book was in their possession, but a staff member had it checked out. The awesome gentleman at the desk promised to notify me when it would be available and I told him I would be in the city Friday. Thursday I got the email it was on the shelf waiting for me, so away we went!
Genevieve and Trent skipped swim team practice so we could get a jump start on the drive and we had some backups to deal with on the Schuylkill Expressway, but we arrived by 10am, found street parking and walked 4 or so city blocks to the Van Pelt Library. We checked in as guests at the front desk, headed to Circulation and was given the first book, The Dunbar Book of Contemporary Furniture (Hockaday). Much of this looked familiar, to the newer and most reasonably priced book I already own. I do believe they reprinted the text in the new book. I do enjoy this book because of the specs in the back. It even tells you yardage for upholstery, which I find very useful if you need to work on a piece. Alas, as I already knew, this book (published in 1956) was not going to contain my twins. It’s ok, because I only requested it because I was going there for the other and thought I’d still follow through even after I found out the Dunbar Book of Modern Furniture was no more.
The Van Pelt Library is a gorgeous space. Trent (9), decided he wants to go to college at UPENN after the campus visit. I assured him he should start a gofundme now to start saving as there is no way that is in our budget! J On recommendation of the front desk clerk, we rode the elevator to the 6th floor for a fabulous view of campus. There were some exhibits up there, mostly of medical equipment, a Shakespeare Library room, and what appeared to be banquet space for weddings and such. After, we headed back to the car.
A short drive later, we were scanning the residential streets behind the Phila Art Museum for parking. The library clerk had told me there are usually parking on the side streets and I was hoping to avoid a parking garage. The first street I picked had a few open spots and I quick asked a resident if it was ok I park there. She said, yep, you can park for up to 4 hours without a permit. SCORE! We then walked into the museum, checked in, was issued a visitor pass and up we went to the 2nd Floor Library.
I did not hear angels singing when I felt the book in my hands, but I’m sure I had a huge smile plastered across my face! I waited until we found seating in a lounge space before I opened it up. It is hard cover and the binding had some issues, but my first impression was….wow, there isn’t a lot of pages in this thing! I spent the next half hour or so reviewing the pages, snapping photos and enjoying the catalog.
Some things I found out. My chairs are No. 4580, with the arm chairs being No. 4581. They are described as: Side Chairs, cane backs, buttoned foam rubber seats. The write up on the page says: ‘In modern furniture, various materials are often strikingly combined in a single piece. The chairs on this page, for example, use woven cane panels in the backs. ‘ The page prior says ‘The furniture on these pages is from the Dunbar Continental Series, named in honor of Berne, Indiana, which recently celebrated it’s hundredth birthday….’ Nothing on the next pages about the line name, so don’t want to assume it carried over to the following pages. Also, this book was published in 1952. Which dates my chairs around the late 40's-early 50's.
Other interesting facts. Dunbar used mainly mahogany and walnut as it’s ‘standard exposed woods’. Other woods and laminates or veneers were used in case work, tables and desks as well. All furnishings were hand made with the utmost care and the factory operated as more of a custom style workshop. Some components were machined, but drawers and door fronts were fitted by hand for a precision fit. The finishing procedures were mostly hand work as opposed to spraying and machines. Their skilled finishers were able to produce this after many steps and coats. Some pieces were in finishing for up to 2 weeks to attain the final finish.
I must say, I am even more in love with these chairs after reading all of this. Working for a high end custom millwork shop, I can also relate to the hand finishing as some of our work is done to the old standards depending on what is required for the job. I am so happy to be able to make these chairs comfortable and pretty again! They truly are a wonderful piece of mid century design history and Edward Wormley’s adaptation of a classic design really makes for a stunning piece to feature in your home. I hope to get started on the upholstery shortly, so please check back for updates! If you would like one or both chairs to be held for you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. The listing is in the shop, so please click on the shop link to review.
One final note! There is an INCREDIBLE Scandinavian Design exhibit at the Perleman Annex of the Phila Art Museum right now. I am not sure how long it is there, but as I asked about paying admission to see, the desk clerk informed me that since I had a visitor's pass, I was able to explore the museum! I do sort of feel guilty, so I promise to make a donation to the museum in the future! Lots of Hans Wegner chairs and Arne Vodder. Definitely worth checking out if you are in the area! So neat to see the Papa Bear and Wish Bone chairs in person! This chair whore wanted to touch them, but alas, not proper museum etiquette! Click on the photo below to scroll through some shots of the exhibits. Lots of Hans Wegner pieces, Arne Vodder and more. The kids found a Minecraft station, appropriately designed by in Sweden. The first photo, is local, Philly artists (husband/wife) who create cool and colorful visuals with rattan papa san chairs!