Walnut, steel wire, textile
Overall: 33 1/4 x 20 1/2 x 18 in. ( 84.5 x 52.1 x 45.7 cm )
Impressed marks on rear of proper left leg: [H]UNZIGER; [P]AT APRIL 16, 1876; NY/MARCH/1869
Walnut side chair with square back containing six vertical turned spindles; turned front legs running on diagonal angle to connect with seat back; raked rear legs; U-shaped undercarriage. Original fabric-covered steel wire upholstery under modern seat cushion. Traces of red paint in rondels on seat back.
New York City furniture maker George Hunzinger (1835-1898) was one of the most innovative furniture designers of the late 19th century. The idiosyncratic German-trained cabinetmaker emigrated to New York in 1855, fleeing the economic turmoil of his native country. Fascinated with the latest technology and inventions, Hunzinger became a prolific inventor and leader in the patent furniture industry. This Hunzinger side chair incorporates the technologies of two patents that represent the designer's progressive innovations. In 1869, Hunzinger patented a diagonal side brace that extended from both corners of the crest rail, attached to the midpoint of the side of the seat, and then continued to form the front legs, a structural innovation intended to strengthen chairs. His 1876 patent provided an ingenious alternative to traditionally upholstered chairs: a woven flat wire covered with a woven textile in a grid pattern, which fit into grooved channels on the seat and back frame. Hunzinger announced: "The chair seat or back is made with reference to the use of wire in place of cane, to form an openwork seat, and to insure great strength and beauty, and to facilitae the interweaving of wires." As in this example, the 1876 patent was often incorporated with the 1869 diagonal brace patent. The side chair's simple, crisp turnings and efficient design anticipate modernism, while the curved undercarriage evokes ancient Roman curule chairs.
Barry R. Harwood, "The Furniture of George Hunzinger: Invention and Innovation in Nineteenth-Century America," (Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1997), pp. 50, 95.
Gift of Ronald S. Kane
According to the donor, the side chair was owned by two unmarried daughters of George Hunzinger, who lived in a spacious apartment at 37 Riverside Drive through the 1960s. The chair was later owned by a companion/caregiver of the sisters, and was acquired by Mr. Kane about five years ago from the daughter of the companion.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.