This magnificent armchair is one of the fullest expressions of the Queen Anne style to survive from eighteenth-century Philadelphia. From the crest scrolls and curvilinear stiles to the shaped arms and cabriole legs, the chair repeatedly incorporates the S-curve on its design--a curve termed by the English artist, William Hogarth, as "the line of beauty." The chair's rounded stiles are a refinement rarely found on other surviving examples of the form, which include a pair in the collections of Winterthur Museum and two in private collections, one of which appears to be part of a larger set commissioned by Captain Samuel Morris (1734-1812) of Philadelphia (Hummel, "Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture in the Henry Francis du Pont Winterthur Museum," Antiques (June 1970), fig. 3, p. 897; Sack, Fine Points of Furniture (New York, 1950), p.29; Montgomery and Kane, eds., American Art 1750-1800: Towards Independence (New York, 1976), cat. 92, p. 146).
Like the Morris example, this armchair appears to have been part of a larger set of side chairs. These comprise five in the Kaufman Collection and a sixth in the collections of The Chipstone Foundation (see fig. 2). Beyond their outward similarities, all the chairs share a number of construction features that taken in their totality indicate the work of the same maker. These details include the identical number of wooden pins used to secure the tenon joints between the seat rails and rear stiles, laminates applied to the inner and outer curves of the stiles and a seat lip that is integral with the front seat rail, but applied on the side seat rails. In addition, all the chairs bear Roman numerals that form a series and further support the likelihood that all seven were made as part of the same set. With this chair numbered I, the chair at Chipstone numbered VI, and the five in the Kaufman collection numbered II, III, IV, V, VII, the chairs appear to be the first seven of a larger set of eight, or possibly twelve chairs (Flanigan, American Furniture from the Kaufman Collection (New York, 1986), cover illustration, cat. 2 and Rodriguez Roque, American Furniture at Chipstone (Madison, Wisconsin, 1984), cat. 48).
THE WALN AND LARGE FAMILIES OF PHILADELPHIA
The armchair has remained in the same family for which it was commissioned in the eighteenth century. According to the present owner, the chair was owned by his descendants in the Waln and Large families of Philadelphia. Extensive research has uncovered only one direct line of descent from a Waln family member to the present owner, George G. Meade Easby: His great-great-great-great grandfather was Robert Waln (1720-1784), a prosperous Quaker merchant in Philadelphia. Born in the Waln family's mansion in the Northern Liberties, Philadelphia, he married Rebecca Coffin (d. 1799) in about the year 1750 and coinciding with the chair's time of production, their marriage may have occasioned the commission of the set of chairs. A large shipowner, he established a successful mercantile business that was continued by his son, Robert Waln (1765-1836) and nephew, Jesse Waln. He lived on Front Street near Sassafrass Street and along with his family is frequently mentioned in the surviving journal of his neighbor, Elizabeth Drinker, who lived on the northwest corner of Front Street and Drinker's Alley. Besides recounting numerous visits and excursions with the Walns, Elizabeth Drinker and her husband, Henry, were involved with the family's major events. On the day Robert Waln died, she writes, "This morning about 2 o'clock, our neighbor Robt Waln departed this Life, after a lingering illness, aged 63 years." Previously, she and her husband had attended the wedding of Robert Waln's eldest child, Susanna (d. 1828) to Pattison Hartshorne (d. 1828) in 1776 and a year later at the beginnings of the Revolutionary War, she writes, "S. Hartshorne came over this morning to go on ye top of our House to see ye Fleet come up." After Robert Waln's death, she continued her relationship with his widow and children and during the outbreak of yellow fever in 1793, the Drinkers removed to Germantown along with Rebecca Waln and the Hartshornes. Two years later, Elizabeth Drinker recounts the death of Susanna's thirteen-year old daughter, Hannah: "she was an innocent good little girl--the trial is great to her poor mother--who has always been anxious for and very fond of her children" (cited in Jordan, ed., Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania, vol. I (New York, 1911), pp. 220-223).
The armchair appears to have been inherited by Susanna Hartshorne. Although his will and inventory do not include specific references to furniture, Robert Waln left all his household furnishings to his wife and appointed his son, Robert Waln, and son-in-law, Pattison Hartshorne, as executors of his estate. His will devises large tracts of land in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to his three daughters, gives money to his nieces Mary Mifflin and Ann Thomas and provides his local Quaker meeting house with funds to support a "Negro school." His wife died fifteen years later and like her husband appointed her son and Pattison Hartshorne executors. While dividing the bulk of her estate equally amongst her four children, she included three specific references to personal possessions: a mahogany chest-of-drawers, a tall-case clock and a silver cann to be given to Susanna, Pattison, and their son, respectively. Susanna and Pattison Hartshorne resided on the southwest corner of Mulberry and 6th Streets. He was also a merchant and his daughter, Rebecca (1783-1852), married his business partner's son, John Baldwin Large (1780-1866). Pattison Hartshorne died in 1828, leaving all his household goods to his wife who died soon thereafter and left the same goods to be divided between her two daughters, Rebecca Large and Susan Waln Hartshorne. Increasing the likelihood of the chair's ownership along this line of descent, Rebecca's son, Robert Hartshorne Large (1809-1868) inherited goods from both his mother and his aunt, who died unmarried. From the late nineteenth century, the line of descent includes Robert Hartshorne Large's son who married Sarah Wise Meade (1851-1913), a daughter of the Civil War General, George G. Meade and the grandmother of the present owner, George G. Meade Easby.