With a strong attribution to New York's most famous cabinetmaker and an unbroken family provenance, this set of six chairs stands as an important survival of early American craftsmanship. The back stays and rope-twist carving on the stiles are identical to those on a set of 24 made for Charles Gustavus Smedberg and attributed to Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) by Nancy McClelland. Another single slipper chair, made for Prudency Telford Morton, also bears the same back design (Nancy McClelland, Duncan Phyfe and the English Regency (New York, 1939), pp. 287, 294, 296-297, pls. 274, 283). The set offered here, however, is distinguished by the hairy shank carved legs and paw feet, a refined feature that would have added considerably to the expense. Similar legs are seen on other chairs attributed to Phyfe, as well as his sketch accompanying his 1816 bill to Charles N. Bancker in 1816 (Charles F. Montgomery, American Furniture The Federal Period (New York, 1966), p. 126; Sotheby's New York, May 19, 2005).
These chairs were part of a set of eight that, along with a table, were a wedding present for Charlotte Rose (b. 1797) and William Coggeshall Holly (b. 1791), who married in New York City in about 1815. Charlotte's father was a prominent judge in New York, and her husband's family had settled in Stamford, Connecticut in 1642. The chairs passed to her son, Augustus Holly (1828-1910), who was married to Anna Edes Kissam (b. 1834). They then came down to their daughter, Louise Reynolds Holly (1873-1971) who married Ralph Bartlett Goddard, the noted painter and sculptor, in 1912. They lived at 955 Park Avenue, New York, where the chairs were kept until the 1960s. Upon the death of Mrs. Goddard at the age of 98, the chairs were inherited by her daughters, Anna Goddard Potter and Madeline Holly Goddard, and used in their homes in Bellport and East Patchogue, New York. Upon Madeline's death, her chairs were inherited by Anna Potter. Before her death in July 2006, Anna gave them to her children, Lawrence Goddard Potter and Jane Potter Graham, who are offering them for auction.