The Hitchcock chair is named after its designer Lambert Hitchcock (1795-1852). Lambert Hitchcock was a Connecticut cabinetmaker who mass produced a line of ornately painted dining chairs. In 1820, he began manufacturing of entire chairs on an assembly line. Instead of using dark polished woods, he painted chairs, and intead of the costy carved woods and inlay, he stenciled. His chairs were marketed for ordinary people who wanted a high end look.
His chairs became a massive hit, and by 1825, Hitchcock had moved into a bigger factory, employing 100 people. The company produced up to 300 chairs a week, which equaled around 15,000 a year.
Hitchcock’s company – which was reorganized in 1832 as Hitchcock, Alford & Co. They produced chairs in several varieties and colors, along with settees. Most pieces were painted black or brownish black (imitating ebony) or a very dark green. Elaborate designs were then stenciled onto the back and sides in bright metallic gold, and additional colors such as blue, red and white were used. A bronzing glaze coat was then applied over the entire chair. The chairs usually were stenciled with baskets of fruit, flowers, cornucopias, leaves, or lyres. Most Hitchcock chairs were made from maple, oak, birch, and poplar was used as well.
Authentic Hitchcock have a stencil signature on the chairs. However, that stencil underwent variations.
Chairs dating 1823-43: “L. Hitchcock Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted.”
Chairs dating 1832-43: “Hitchcock, Alford & Co. Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted.” (In some of these, the two “n”s in “Conn.” were printed backwards.)
Chairs dating 1843-52: “L. Hitchcock. Unionville. Conn. Warranted.” (Hitchcock had severed ties with his old firm, and started a new one in Unionville.)
Hitchcock died in 1852, and his factory fell into disuse. In 1946, it was taken over as the site of the newly formed Hitchcock Chair Co., whose mission was to reproduce the original furniture, which later also began producing some variations. This company then ceased operation in 2006. Their pieces were stamped with a combination of the old stencils, with the signature “L. Hitchcock Hitchcocks-ville. Conn. Warranted.”, using the backwards “n”s, and adding the ® trademark symbol and an “HCCo” stamp.
Financial Facts and Values
Back in the 19th century, Hitchcock chairs sold for $.50 to $1.50.
Today, chairs from 1825-43 (Hitchcock’s original companies) fetch around $200-300 for a signed, single chair in good condition- $1,200 for a set of four.
Pieces with more unusual stencils often go higher.
Some of the works produced by the later Hitchcock Chair Company are collectible as well, especially commemorative models made in the 1940s and ’50s