Recently, my wife and I got up to Mackinaw City, MI, and we visited Colonial Fort Michilimackinac. I hadn’t seen the fort since the 60’s when my parents stopped there as part of a camping trip. At that time the archaeological excavations had spanned several years (began in 1959), and they were reconstructing most of the buildings. The Fort has its origins with the French fur trade in 1715 and after the French and Indian War, the British occupied the fort from 1761-1781. Later the fort was torn down by the British, and the buildings moved to Mackinac Island where a new and more secure fort was built (Fort Mackinac). Excavations at Fort Michilimackinac has since revealed many artifacts due to the long period of occupation.
During my recent visit to Fort Michilimackinac, I was surprised to see a bow-back Windsor side chair among the furnishings depicted in the Officers Quarters building. Immediately, I started wondering if the British would have had such a chair in their officer’s quarters since they became popular in the 1780’s. If so, this would suppose that the British military acquired one of the earliest versions of the stylish bow-back Windsor chair, and one that was made by Colonial craftsman in the eastern U.S. According to Charles Santore, The Windsor Style in America, the origins of the bow-back chair is that it was first inspired by a oriental design that was popular in England and when it was introduced in Philadelphia in the 1780’s it featured bamboo turnings.
Being a Windsor Chair Maker who has studied with Mike Dunbar in New Hampshire, and someone who loves Windsor chairs, it isn’t a surprise that I wonder these things.