Sunday, January 12, 2014

"Have a seat"

 
It's a phrase that can mean many things. Some positive, like when you show up at a good friends place as they pour you a cup of hot coffee. Some not so good, like when your pissed off boss calls you into his office.

 
And then there's the "one of a kind" seat / seats that pop up all of a sudden.


I was summoned to attend to a family emergency a little over a week ago. I had limited access to email, and like access (or thereof) to the internet.

Last night, I rolled in after nearly nine hours on the road and settled in to open a mountain of mail, scroll through over 100 emails and to check on the "web".

Who woulda thought. Not one, but two, rare seats. Well actually chairs. But rare just the same, I guess. We've been active in the western antique arena since the mid sixties. My wife and I had a retail location for many years, with a focus on (go figure) western whiskies, as well as American antique oak furniture.
 
 





Lot #33 in American Bottle Auctions hard copy catalogue caught my eye. Neat piece to say the least. A quick look at the ABA lot #33 web page showed several closeup photos. Quarter sawn, brilliant flame grained tiger striped golden oak that appears from the photos to be domestic; as opposed to the ruddy European equivalents that flooded the US antique market in the late 1970's and 80's.
 
It caught my eye for a couple of reasons. First and foremost is that I have assisted the decendents of James (not John...) Shea re-obtain a great deal in the way of familiy memoarbilia over the years. I thought, at first glance, that it may be a fit for one of them who resides in the S. F. Bay Area. Secondly, it's just plain neat.
 
But the description included a lot of suppositions. To be fair, when something this unusual pops up, it's sometimes tough to come up with the facts, and nothing but the facts... ABA attributed the chair to the Shea Bocqueraz Co, of S.F. based on a logo that is present on the upper half of the chair; SB Co.
If so, the chair would date to ca. 1903, the time that the vertically embossed fifth mold was slugged out and modified for the final time with a "dash" instead of "&" to reflect dropping the "&" Co. from the corporate name, until 1917 when the company closed it's doors.
 
 
 
 
That in turn puts the chair into the transitional period of Victorian furniture style and on into the Arts & Crafts (or Mission) era. Based on the style of the legs, and the color of the stain, the carving and the type of finish, the age of the chair could conceivably be a fit to either of these styles.
 
Following please find the published description.
 
"SB CO XXXX W. with inscribed anchor. Oak chair measures 41” high, seat is 18” wide. 1897-1917. When we first got a glimpse of this chair we knew it was something special. As we did more investigation, we realized it was made for the Shea Bocqueraz Company in San Francisco (see previous lot.) The initial partnership of former Boston resident John Shea, Antoine Bocqueraz and Robert McKee began in 1871 at Front and Jackson Streets in San Francisco. Robert McKee, who ironically first brought the Tea Kettle brand to the partnership, left the company in 1895 or 97 depending on who you read. The company was listed at 527 Front (1896-1898), 525 Market (1899-1906), 509-517 Mission (1907-1917). So we can ascertain that the chair was made around the turn of the century or within the 19 years while the Shea Bocqueraz Co. (1888-1917) was located at the 525 Market or the Mission street addresses in S.F. Now that the chair is safely in our offices, we are delighted to be able to offer it in our 59th auction. The chair is made of quarter-sawn oak (cut at an angle to enhance the grain of the oakwood)and the backing, which is all one piece, has a hand carved imp sitting on a barrel of whiskey. Our first thought was that it was an advertising piece given to top customers but considering the scarcity, this chair was undoubtedly made as a presentation or commemorative piece. Beautifully crafted, this piece had to have been made by a well-know or at least advanced woodworker, probably in San Francisco. Notice the rich golden patina of the oak wood, untouched but used for over 100 years. The imp, or Irish Leprechaun has large dangling feet and an amazing caricature of the figure atop the back, all made from one piece of wood. It’s known that James Shea came from Skibbereen, Cork, Ireland was of Irish decent which might explain the imp. The “W” might stand for whiskey while the anchor could be a brand although we are still investigating the various nuances of the chair. We hope to have additional information online on this outstanding and historically significant oak chair. Shea, Bocqueraz were either partly or wholly responsible for the Teakettle, Tea Cup, Roanoke Rye, Golden Pony, Springfield and Carlton Rye whiskey brands. This item came ironically enough from a consignor in Illinois. Condition is all original. A terrific presentation or commemorative piece. Surely a high-point for any saloon or early whiskey collector’s showroom. In addition, we are adding a brass marker found on a whiskey barrel that reads "The Tea Kettle Celebrated Distillery Pure Copper Whiskey Trimble Co. Kentucky with a pictured teakettle," will be added to this lot. It was given to us as a gift by an individual who may or may not have been aware we were selling a chair that would go perfectly together. Regardless, the chair and medallion come as a lot of two."
 
Was the chair truly made for Shea Bocqueraz Co.? Your guess is as good as mine...

In the description, I noted that the chair was consigned by an eastern owner who lived in Illinois, where the chair had apparently resided. Quite a distance from Sacramento, where ABA is located. This didn't come as a great surprise, as I've purchased quite a bit in the way of western whiskeyana from the eastern states over the years. What did come as a bit of a surprise was the "enthusiastic" pre-auction estimate of the hammer price; $2,000.00 -$5,000.00. Wowsa. We sold a lot of high end western oak pieces in the way of sideboards, mantle surrounds, curved glass china cabinets, roll top desks and so on, at the top of the market, and none ever approached this lofty figure.
 
OK, so much for the first seat. But imagine my surprise when I took a break from the USPS deliveries and email, and looked at the fresh fodder on eBay. eBay item number: 201012526242 has a virtually identical piece (albeit with a "handicapped" left foot), listed with a buy it now for, coincidentally, $4999.99~.

 
 
Here's their description;
 
THIS IS AN EXTREMELY RARE ANTIQUE SHEA BOCQUERAZ & CO. (1888-1903 DISTRIBUTORS OF TEACUP AND TEAKETTLE WHISKEY) SAN FRANCISCO BASED OAK ADVERTISING CHAIR. IT IS IN OVERALL GREAT CONDITION CONSIDERING ITS AGE, BUT THERE ARE A FEW THINGS I'D LIKE TO POINT OUT. THE FIRST CAN BE SEEN IN PHOTO #7…THE CHAIR SEAT APPEARS TO BE 3 PIECES OF WOOD PUT TOGETHER AND YOU CAN SEE HOW THE SEAM HAS COME APART ON THE MIDDLE AND RIGHT PIECE OF WOOD LEAVING A SPACE BETWEEN THEM. THE SECOND PROBLEM CAN BE SEEN IN PHOTO #12…THE LEFT FOOT TIP OF THE LEPRECHAUN HAS BEEN BROKEN OFF AND IS MISSING. AND OTHER THAN BEING A LITTLE DIRTY ON THE BOTTOM (PHOTOS 10,11), THIS CHAIR IS A FINE EXAMPLE OF EARLY LIQUOR DISTRIBUTORS PROMOTIONAL GIVEAWAYS!!! THIS WOULD MAKE AN EXCELLENT ADDITION TO ANY COLLECTION!!!
 
So much for unique. The seller resides in Truckee, just east of Sacramento.
On the flip side, if you're in the market to spend $5k for a chair, they're located pretty close to one another so that you can touch and feel both, hands on, before making a decision to "have a seat".
____________________________________________________
 
Just got a call from a good friend over in the Washoe about chair #2. Turns out it was recently purchased at an auction in Reno. Purchase price... a little over $700~. Just about in line with what Dennis mentioned as a fair value in his comment. 

6 comments:

Dennis Rogers said...

Bruce, I was also surprised to see 2 of these chairs pop up at the same time. Coincidence, or what? I agree with your assessment on these chairs as to time period and origin (American), even though the "impish" fellow appears to be more of European lore. The heavy quarter sawn oak seems to be American in production. What puzzles me is the attribution given by Jeff and the ebay seller, the monogram could very well be for Shea Bocqueraz, but could just as well stand for something else. There is no provenance that this chair was produced for this company, and at a price of 2-5 thousand, I would want more proof than the mere placement of an unidentified monogram! At any rate, the chairs are pretty cool, and even without proof as to their affiliation with a Western whiskey concern, I still feel that they should be valued at about 800-1200 dollars each, with the damaged example a little less. Obviously more if they can be proven authentic Shea Bocqueraz advertising chairs.

Anonymous said...

This could also be Sierra Bottling Co. and the W could stand for Wieland's, circa 1890 -1910. also XXXX is a form of Malt measurement of
fermentation, (xxx stout, xxxx stout) and lots of beers still to this date use Anchor symbols. Beer also came in barrels, who the hell knows
for sure. Dick Tracy

Dennis Rogers said...

I agree about this possibly being a chair advertising beer. The 4 X's and the anchor reminded me of beer advertising that I have seen before!

Anonymous said...

If I am correct, I believe that Sierra bottling co sold a brand of steam beer, which would be represented by the Anchor, as in Anchor steam beer. which was their brand.......

guardians75 said...

I bought this same chair in Wichita,kansas back in 2013, guy on craigslist was asking 50.00 and talked him down to 25.00, no damage its a absolute beautiful chair and cant imagine ever selling it but to help you guys out on the bottom of my seat it appears to have a stain mark where a tag was removed at one time, it has a second tag on ti that appears to hae been stained over or refinished possibly at some point the tag reads, Sold Exclusively for The Helmers Manufacturing co. there is no date but from what I could learn seems to have been made around end of1800's early 1900's http://www.kchistory.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/Mrs&CISOPTR=894 hope this helpsfor those looking for info

Fred said...

Hi! Just found this and you may already know the info I wish to share. There is a chair on Goodwill Auctions right now that still has the makers label, The Stomps-Burkhardt Co. in Dayton Ohio. They used this name from about 1890 to 1928 when they closed. They made a lot of those North Wind and Lion head chairs you see around. I hope this helps!

 
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