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Governor Bradford's great chair

September 4, 2018

 

Today, a long-awaited personal goal of mine was fulfilled: an exact duplicate of the "great chair" used by my ancestor, Governor William Bradford," was delivered to me a short time ago. Meticulously recreated by master joiner Peter Follansbee, it was constructed to exact specifications in the same ash wood as the original, made in Plymouth Colony, 1630-1670 (and is on display at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth, Massachusetts).

 

I have loaned it to the New England Historic Genealogical Society as part of our 400th anniversary commemorations of the landing of the Mayflower in the hope that other descendants and visiting families and children will enjoy sitting it and experiencing the type of chair used by one of our Pilgrim forefathers. 

 

The story of the original Bradford chair from which it has been duplicated is found on the website of the Pilgrim Hall Museum:

 

"The list of Governor Bradford’s possessions made at the time of his death in 1657 lists two "great wooden chairs" in the parlor, worth a total of 8 shillings. "Wooden" referred to the seat material so it is very possible that this is one of the two chairs mentioned in the inventory. The chair descended in the Bradford family to the Hedge family, who donated it to the museum in 1953.

 

The chair was referred to as William Bradford’s chair as early as 1769, when it was used at ceremonies of the Old Colony Club, a social club of Plymouth men.

 

President Harding sat in the chair at the 1921 Tercentenary Pageant celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ Landing, investing himself with historical significance. The chair is still used to validate historic occasions. In 1995, Supreme Court Justice David Souter sat in Pilgrim Hall’s reproduction of the chair at the 375th anniversary celebration in which 175 new American citizens were naturalized.

 

The chair has been restored and has lost about three inches in height. The hand grips are missing. The top crest rail and board seat have been replaced, and several spindles are not original. While the chair has been coated with brown varnish, faint traces of black paint can be seen under the seat rails." 

 

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