We went to The Alamance Battleground last month for a living history day. It was alright. But I inevitably get a bit tiffed at those things for all they get wrong. The woman dipping candles who clearly doesn't really know how to do it. The woman lecturing about slow food who clearly hasn't ever eaten that way. Don't even get me started on the medical misinformation. Its not that these folks must live their lectures for purist reasons. Its not that I don't appreciate a good volunteer. Its just seems to me, if you are going to teach something, you should really try to get it right. Anyhoo, the best thing going on, other than the cider press, was the black smith.
He rocked it out on his trestle table (which, boys, I still want one of those) with his mobile forge. He made all the clothes he was wearing, made all the tools he was demonstrating, and just so clearly knew EXACTLY what he was talking about. Also, he was precious. He spent much longer than should have been necessary explaining to Larry Bose and me (the children long since having wandered off) how to spot a chair made with hand forged tools. Which involves the inner shape of a dowel hole, its squareness or roundness. Unfortunately the chair has to be dismantled to see it.
I thought of Mr. Precious the Blacksmith this morning. I see now, my rescued chair appears to be hand made. A few of the dowels are machined. But the oldest ones -the front ones and the ones holding up the seat- are hand carved. The whole chair has an off square countenance, a nearly symmetrical charm, and it sits low. Apparently all dowels were machined after the 1860s. So hand carving is quite old. And apparently all chairs sat lower back then. (Maybe folks were shorter?)
Someone refinished it. I'm guessing from wear on the paint, sometime in the 90s. I don't care. I don't want it for resale value. But its fun to find an artist's hands on this piece. Its fun to think about the life this chair, both recent and distant, has had. And its satisfying to save something, anything.