From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia
Artist/Maker: Lawrence Allwine
Materials: black paint on unidentified wood
Dimensions: 36.5 x 135.9 x 58.4 (14 3/8 x 53 1/2 x 23 in.)
Provenance: Thomas Jefferson; by descent to Thomas Jefferson Randolph; by descent to Caroline Ramsay Randolph; by bequest to R.T.W. Duke; by descent to Helen and Mary Duke; by purchase to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation in 1951
Accession Number: 1951-1
Historical Notes: On April 2, 1798, Jefferson purchased a Windsor bench from a noted Philadelphia maker of Windsor furniture, Lawrence Allwine. He noted in his Memorandum book, "gave Lawrence Allwine ord. on Barnes for 26 D. for a stick sopha and mattras." The couch, with turned stretchers and six bamboo legs (later shortened) with casters, was eventually placed near his chair to support his legs while he read or wrote in the Cabinet at Monticello. Both ends were cut out to allow the round bottom of the chair to fit against the couch.
Initially, Jefferson may have used the Windsor chair with a sack back Windsor chair with a writing arm, but later he used the bench with a revolving, or Whirligig, chair that was made by Thomas Burling.
Once some shipping difficulties were resolved, the bench presumably arrived at Monticello later in 1798. In 1800, Jefferson wrote his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph, to find a book catalogue, and said that it might be found "under the window by the red couch in the cabinet."
Allwine, who also made his own patented paint, made Windsor chairs in Philadelphia between 1786 and 1800. In the Aurora, May 3, 1800, Allwine advertised that he made paints for ships, buildings, and furniture superior for its brilliance and durability. The "stick sopha" was Jefferson's only known purchase from him.
- ↑ This article is based on Stein, Worlds, 264.
- ↑ See Charles L. Granquist, "Thomas Jefferson's Whirlgig Chairs," Antiques 109(May 1976): 1059.
- ↑ Ibid., 1069n.
- ↑ Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph, November 25, 1800. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress. Letterpress copy available online.