Everyone born in the 20th century knows about Hitchcock chairs. If you are unaware, you may be surprised that the small, rickety chair in the attic with a splat and cane seat could be worth hundreds of dollars!
But wait! Before trying to sell your regular chair as vintage, please read our guide thoroughly. Hitchcock chairs are starting to become incredibly valuable, and if you play your cards right, you may find an excellent deal.
Anybody can sign a chair, and counterfeits are abundant. So what is a Hitchcock chair? How do you know if your Hitchcock chair is authentic? Does a signature increase the value? How valuable can a chair be? Do not worry. We will cover all these topics in this article.
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What Are Hitchcock Chairs?
Hitchcock chairs look like any ordinary chair. At first glance, the only thing of note about them is the centuries-old design. These chairs are mostly black, with many painted leaves, flowers, and fruits. They have rush seats but can also have solid seats. These chairs often have gold stripes or gold banding painted on the legs. The Hitchcock company also designed many arm chairs.
History of Hitchcock Chairs
Believe it or not, Hitchcock chairs were once extremely affordable. This affordability combined with a durable design is why they were so popular in the 19th century. The Hitchcock Chair Company was solely responsible for manufacturing them. This renowned company underwent many changes in ownership but never ceased making its iconic furniture. The journey starts with one person, Lambert Hitchcock.
Lambert Hitchcock founded this innovative chair company. He was born in 1795, and by 1814 he was the apprentice to Silas Cheney of Litchfield, a famous woodworker. In 1818 he moved to a small town near Barkhamsted known as the Fork-of-the-Rivers. This “town” was little more than an accumulation of log cabins and a sawmill.
This did not deter Hitchcock as he saw promise there. He went to work in the sawmill, which some family acquaintances owned. Hitchcock’s inspiration was Eli Terry, the legendary clockmaker. Eli Terry invented affordable wooden works to replace the expensive brass works used in most clocks at the time. This allowed him to reach a wider market.
Terry then made an assembly line to make the production process efficient for his wooden works. This method divided the processes of cutting and assembling the various components leading to an increase in output. Hitchcock wanted to achieve the same thing with his wooden chairs.
In 1820-21 Lambert Hitchcock bought a two-story building near the sawmill and started manufacturing the now-famous “Hitchcock” chair. The design of this chair was loosely based on the Sheraton style, which was popular at the time. Lambert also incorporated design elements from the famous Baltimore and Empire chairs.
Value of Hitchcock Furniture
The original price of a Hitchcock chair was around $1.5 per chair. In today’s world, the value of Hitchcock chairs mainly depends on the year when it was manufactured. Like vintage Nichols, Hitchcock chairs are extremely desirable in the collector’s market.
Many prefer the armchair design, but most Hitchcock designs do not have any arms. A set of four Hitchcock chairs in good condition can cost upwards of $1200, and six chairs will cost even more. If you do not wish to break the bank, we recommend buying a fine set for your house. An accompanying 19th-century table will complete the collection.
- This genuine “Harvard in 1726” Hitchcock armchair from 1936 is listed for $1630 on eBay.
- This antique Hitchcock Chair from the millennium of Christianity in Ukraine is listed for $799 on eBay.
- This Vintage Hitchcock dining chair from the 1940s is listed for $265 on Etsy.
How to identify authentic Hitchcock chairs
Identifying authentic Hitchcock chairs can be challenging as the market is filled with imitations. For this reason, we have prepared a few points to look out for when making your purchase. Comparing each characteristic with the reference picture above will help you learn more quickly.
Colors and Design
These antique chairs have a contoured seat. Always remember that the seat should be fruit basket-shaped. The original rush seat side chairs radiate quality. Gold trim and gold accents are good indications as well. Hitchcock chairs are famous for their turned legs and light yellow pin striping. Some chairs even have balls at the end of each leg.
The original paint is glossy with almost a mirror-like finish, and the chairs were always painted black or nearly black. The company painted the stencils with metallic colors. Although the paint will age with time, original Hitchcocks maintain their quality. You will not see chipping unless the piece is extremely old or has never been restored.
Check out this amazing video on YouTube to learn more about restoring Hitchcock chairs:
Hitchcock Chair Stencil Patterns
The back rail of each Hitchcock chair has a certain stencil pattern. The earliest Hitchcock Company stencil said, “L.HITCHCOCK. HITCHCOCKS-VILLE. CONN. WARRANTED.” This original stencil did not have the “N’s” written backward. That error did not appear until 1832.
During this time, the company had been through receivership and became a new corporate form known as the Hitchcock, Alford Company. This “Alford” was Arba Alford, Hitchcock’s brother-in-law. The first stencils with backward “N’s” appeared during this production phase. This is not surprising as most of the work was done by laborers who could not read. They simply did not see any difference.
The stencil during this period read “HITCHCOCK.ALFORD & Co. HITCHCOCKSVILLE.CONN. WARRANTED.” However, this company was also dissolved in 1843, and Hitchcock started a new chair company in Unionville. The stencil changed once again.
Decorative stenciling was also used on some chairs. This sometimes included a stenciled fan, among other designs. The following are the three stencil texts that the company used on Hitchcock chairs. If the chair says something different, it is most likely an imitation.
- “L. HITCHCOCK. HITCHCOCKS-VILLE. CONN. WARRANTED”
- “HITCHCOCK, ALFORD & CO. HITCHCOCKS-VILLE. CONN. WARRANTED”
- “L. HITCHCOCK. UNIONVILLE. CONN. WARRANTED”
Hitchcock Chair Company
The Hitchcock Chair Co signified an era of American excellence. The design, combined with durability and affordability, made Hitchcock chairs a phenomenon. The ever-popular Hitchcock Chair Co closed its doors in 2006.
For four long years, everyone forgot the Hitchcock name. Those who appreciated the unique quality and craftsmanship of the Hitchcock design could find restored Hitchcock furniture through Still River Antiques. A shop owned and run by Rick Swenson. Rick and his partner, Gary Hath, bought the Hitchcock name and artwork rights in 2010.
Their goal is to continue producing Hitchcock-style chairs and to bring the design into the 21st century. However, maintaining the quality of the original product and the integrity of Lambert Hitchcock’s dream will be the real challenge.
Where to Buy Hitchcock Chairs
There are many options to consider when buying a Hitchcock chair. We recommend trying out every option to find the chair that best suits you. A little legwork may save you the embarrassment of purchasing a fake Hickcock chair.
Local Antique Store
Depending on where you live, an excellent antique store may be right around the corner. These stores sometimes have great items available at reasonable prices. Pawn shops are also a great choice as they often have Hitchcock chairs for sale. The advantage of this approach is that you can see the piece in person and easily authenticate it.
Buying Hitchcock chairs online is much more convenient when compared to traveling to a pawn shop or an antique store. But this also comes with one major drawback. Trying to authenticate a Hitchcock chair with just pictures is next to impossible. Thankfully, sites like eBay and Etsy have return policies in the unfortunate case of you receiving a counterfeit. Make sure to contact customer support immediately with proof of purchase and the seller’s information.
If you live in Connecticut, it may be time to take a road trip to the Hitchcock chair company located at 2 School Street, Riverton, CT. This company aims to accomplish all that Lambert Hitchcock sought to do and is still producing chairs in the Hitchcock design. They have many products available and even sell office furniture. They also offer restoration of old Hitchcock chairs. If you own a Hitchcock chair, it may be wise to get it restored sooner than later.
Hitchcock Chairs Buying Tips
Are you looking to buy a Hitchcock chair? We commend your decision as these chairs are perfect for any antique collector. But buying one can certainly be difficult as imitations are everywhere. Therefore you need to be careful when buying this piece of American history. Remember the following points when making your purchase, and never make haste.
Buy From Trusted Sources
If you are new to the market, we recommend only buying from trusted sources. Learning to spot fakes will come with time and experience. If you are unwilling to commit the required time, trusted sources such as your local antique shop or a reputed online store may be your best bet.
When buying from a retailer, you must ask them about the history of the chair you want to buy. Good sellers know their history and will happily share it with you. You should take your business elsewhere if they try to dodge the question or change the subject.
Look for a Good Value
Not many people know the true value of Hitchcock chairs. You can take advantage of this ignorance to find good deals. Check out the local yard sale. You may find an authentic Hitchcock chair for extremely cheap. Most people do not realize that these chairs are a part of American history.
Knowledge is your strength and will help you find these elusive chairs. However, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Still, it can’t hurt to check it out in case you hit the jackpot.
Learn How to Spot Fake Hitchcock chairs
Learning to spot fake Hitchcock chairs will give you a headstart in protecting yourself from the numerous imitations in the market. Look for quality craftsmanship and authentic rush seats. The color should also be dark with yellow and gold accents. These signs are good indicators that the chair is a real Hitchcock. If the chair seems of poor quality or is coming apart, you should be careful.
Watch this YouTube video by Historic Arkansas Museum to learn more about the impact of Hitchcock chairs in the 19th century:
To summarize, original condition Hitchcock chairs can be extremely valuable. We recommend getting yourself a charming pair with floral decoration as this classic design is sure to impress. You can use our guide to determine the authenticity of any Hitchcock furniture and save yourself from fakes.
Remember that original rush seats are desirable and can significantly increase the value. Always buy from a trusted source, as taking a gamble may lead to losing your hard-earned money on a cheap knockoff.
Hitchcock chairs are truly timeless pieces and a part of American history. Thank you for reading our Hitchcock chairs identification and value guide. Be sure to leave a comment down below if you have any questions.