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How to Identify the Age of a Windsor Chair

Windsor chairs often had bowed backs.
chair image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com

Windsor chairs were first manufactured in England in the early 18th century and are named after the English village where they were first made. Around 1740 they were produced in America, first in Philadelphia. As their popularity grew, they could be found in all areas of the country. Windsor chairs come in many shapes, colors and sizes. They are used as dining chairs, side chairs, writing chairs and high chairs. These versatile chairs have not gone out of style and have been in production for over 300 years.

Research Windsor chairs. Before you can accurately determine the age of a Windsor chair, it is imperative that you do your homework. Consult reference books on the topic like, “Windsor Chairs” by Wallace Nutting, and go to websites like Kovels that are devoted to antiques. Visit museums that feature exhibits on early American life. Talk to dealers and collectors.

Examine the chair's construction. An early English Windsor chair will have turned sticks driven through the plant seat to form legs. Above the seat the sticks will connect with a hoop to form the back and arm supports. These chairs had no stretchers, which are horizontal dowels that connect the legs, and no nails were used to hold the chair together

Look at the chair's legs. An American Windsor will have angled legs, whereas the English chair legs were straight.

Check the chair's plank seat to see how thick it is. Generally, older chairs will have thicker seats.

Count the chair's spindles. Generally, the older chairs will have the most spindles.

Study the chair's composition. Windsor chairs were crafted from a variety of woods like pine and birch, with more than one type used in a single chair. A chair with mahogany parts can be dated to the late 19th century because mahogany was difficult to obtain before then.

Determine how the chair is finished. Windsor chairs were painted to hide the variety of woods used to make them and are found most commonly in green, but other colors include shades of red, blue and yellow. A clear finish is rare and may mean the chair has been stripped and refinished.

Consult an expert. Ultimately, an expert on Windsor chairs is the only person who can definitively date your Windsor chair and tell if it is original or a well crafted reproduction.

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