Presumably part of a set of twelve chairs commissioned by General John Lord for his daughter Susannah Lord before her marriage to Judge William Hayes of South Berwick, Maine on June 2, 1811, this chair reflects the Neoclassical designs developed during the early 19th century in New Hampshire. Accompanying a surge in commerce in Portsmouth, this new style emerged in architecture and furniture based on the return of the Palladian style as interpreted by the British architect Robert Adam. The veneered solid vasiform splat combined with the veneered tablet crestrail and square corner blocks demonstrate the attention to geometry and vibrant flat surfaces and a movement away from the naturalistic carving of the Rococo style. Idiosyncratic details on the documented chairs from this set and the one offered here are identical. Each have an 1/8 of an inch vertical strip of birch veneer along the left edge of the crest. Standard mortise and tenon joints fasten all elements except the cross stretchers which are attached to the side stretchers with sliding dovetails.
According to William Hayes's 1851 probate records, the chairs were located in both the north and south front rooms. Twenty years later, at the time of Susannah's death, the chairs remained split between the "Parlor" and the "Drawing room" (Maine, York, Probate Records 1851 inventory, docket 8907 and 1871 inventory, docket 8904; Jobe, p. 347). The chairs were inherited by Hammond Vinton Hayes, the grandson of Judge Williams Hayes and are included in a 1930 photograph of Hammond's dining room in Hingham, Massachusetts. The complete set was purchased by Colonel Guy Walker of Beverley in 1945. Walker donated two side chairs to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. By 1964, the remaining set of ten were in the hands of John Walton as advertised in Antiques (November 1964), p. 502.
Long thought to be crafted by John Seymour, these chairs have now been attributed to Langley Boardman based on recent scholarship which explores the similarities of the set of chairs to two side chairs, one with Portsmouth provenance and the second by Langley Boardman (Jobe, pp.347-349, no. 94 and 95). The first with a closely related veneered splat but with turned reeded feet was originally purchased by Colonel Ebenezer Thompson (1762-1828), a Portsmouth resident. This chair, which appears in a late 19th century photograph of the library in the home of Judge Ebenezer Thompson, is identical to a side chair from the Lansdell K. Christie Collection sold at Sotheby's New York, October 21, 1972, lot 54. The second chair, with similarly veneered crest and construction, but with a different splat was purchased by George Frost II on November 14, 1806 from Langley Boardman. The bill, which is located in the New Hampshire Historical Society, is illustrated in Jobe, p. 345. The Frost chair and the one presented here have similar triangular corner blocks, reeded stiles and the use of sliding dovetails to secure the cross stretcher to the side stretchers. The close relationship of the chair offered here and the two documented Portsmouth chairs, and the proximity of the Lords and Hayes' homes, South Berwick, to the shop of Langely Boardman, Portsmouth, provide plausible evidence that the side chair offered here was crafted by Boardman or another familar with his work (Jobe, pp. 344-349, no. 94 & 95).