Earlier this year I won a beautiful little side table with a bent wood slatted x base. Not many turned up but the piece along with a similar magazine rack seem to get attributed to Harvey Probber. If you know me at all, you know I never believe others when they say ‘attributed to’ and prefer to do my own research. Over the summer I was able to review a Probber catalog at the Philadelphia Athenaeum Museum, which is basically an architectural museum and library. The small catalog was more of a brochure and did not contain the table. I did, however, discuss what I was looking for with the librarian who recommended I check both Winterthur and Hagley in Wilmington, DE. Both of these museums are in the realm of the DuPont family and document industrial history. I checked Hagley’s holdings and they had 2 Probber items I could review. Unlike most places I visit, they were able to pull them while I waited.
***RESEARCH TIP*** Most larger libraries have off site storage and it is very important you make an appointment in advance to review something specific in the collection.
I am not an experienced Probber dealer so I could not determine much by the construction alone. It was obvious there was veneer used. The design was impressive and the use of the brass piece was definitely not your average look but I needed to learn more. Check out the catalogs are always a help. Sadly, there are really no resources online for Probber and his works that I found. I must say, after making the trip to Wilmington, I so enjoyed the perusal. So first I looked at The Kill Collection. It was a thin catalog that just featured pieces from this collection. Everything in this collection is metal. It is really lovely but not was I was looking for. The Librarian returned with the other catalog. This always makes me take a deep breath as I wonder if I will find my answer or go home with more questions after exhausting the 3 catalogs that are housed within 2 hours of me. When I took a look at the tabbed hard cover bound book, I was optimistic. Where to start? I turned to the Occassional section first. There were some side tables in the area but I did not find my table. My heart began to sink again. By this point, my goal was to get as much info out of this book as possible. There were wood chip samples of the finishes offered. I also realized that Probber sold directly to the trade. That means in order to buy his furniture, you needed to be working with an interior designer or architect. That cuts out a lot of middle America and also reminds me that these designer high end pieces will not be found easily.