Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives, Gift of Lowell Baier
Chairs like this, manufactured by Bembé & Kimbel, made up half the seats ordered for the House Chamber’s grand opening in 1857. The House needed 262 chairs and had only four months to make them, so work was divided between furniture makers Bembé & Kimbel in New York and the Desk Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia. The chairs are almost identical. The elaborately carved oak frames all include stars and stripes shields framed by oak and laurel branches, and each was upholstered with red goat skin. The main difference is the carved molding of the interlocking rings beneath the seat. In Bembé & Kimbel’s chairs, the center of each ring indents, whereas in the Desk Manufacturing Company, the centers are carved in relief.