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  PAINT-DECORATED, PLANK-SEATED SETTEE WITH A UNIQUE, SERPENTINE CREST RAIL AND UPOLSTERED ARMS WITH THE HEART-IN-HAND SYMBOL OF THE ODD FELLOWS FRATERNAL LODGE ON THEIR WOOD PANELED FRONTS, MAINE OR PENNSYLVANIA ORIGIN, 1830-60
Dimensions (inches): 83" wide x 34" tall x 22" overall depth, seat depth 18.25"
Description:
PAINT-DECORATED, PLANK-SEATED SETTEE WITH A UNIQUE, SERPENTINE CREST RAIL AND UPOLSTERED ARMS WITH THE HEART-IN-HAND SYMBOL OF THE ODD FELLOWS FRATERNAL LODGE ON THEIR WOOD PANELED FRONTS, MAINE OR PENNSYLVANIA ORIGIN, 1830-60:

The rise and fall of the ocean-wave style, serpentine crest rail on this paint-decorated American settee, made sometime between 1830 and 1860, is something I have not before encountered. The same is true of the arched, upholstered arms, which have a wooden paneled front, decorated with the heart-in-hand symbol of the Odd Fellows fraternal lodge. Together these set the ground for a bench that takes a wide deviation from the expected form and does so in the whimsical sort of style loved by collectors of American folk art and painted furniture alike.

The crotch mahogany, grain-decorated ground is trimmed out in wide stripes of vibrant chrome yellow. I acquired this from a Maine resident and I expect Maine is its origin. The abundance of yellow paint, the complete absence of flat back slats, and the folky variation on a standard Pennsylvania form are all attributes that call attention to other Maine-origin furniture. The size is more indicative of Pennsylvania settees, however, and since no specific history is known, it may well be from either of the two states.

When the bench was found, its arms were covered in horse hair. This may have been the original covering, but it was worn and unsightly. The previous owner was in the possession of some circa 1870, pictorial ingrain carpet from an Odd Fellows hall, on which the letters of the organization and symbols were woven. This cotton textile was used it to reupholster the arms. The fabric is comfortable, visually attractive, and I can't think of anything more fitting for the purpose. On it are the open Bible, the Eye of God, the I.O.O.F. acronym, and the three links of chain that represent friendship, love, and truth.

Similar to the Masons in some respects, the International Order of the Odd Fellows is one of the few secret fraternal groups that was operating in the 18th century and still exists today. The organization formed in England sometime during the 18th century and was introduced to the U.S. in New York in 1806. Though the exact date of origin is uncertain, the earliest surviving meeting minutes (from a chapter in London) date to 1730.

The original purpose of the Odd Fellows relates to a time before there was a welfare state, socialized healthcare programs, or trade unions. The aim was (and still is) to provide assistance to its members along these lines when they need it. The name "Odd Fellows" has long been a source of curiosity and speculation. Though forgotten by the organization itself, one reasonable theory is that it referred to those persons employed in "odd" trades, as there were organizations for most of the major trades.

Some of the best American folk art objects are represented in the ceremonial regalia of the Odd Fellows fraternal organization and this settee is no exception.

Condition: Some expected paint loss and scratches, but no obvious restoration present. Very nice surface. Arms reupholstered in a 19th century fabric (described above).
   
Primary Color: red, rust, orange, yellow
Earliest Date: 1830
Latest Date: 1860
For Sale Status: Sold
Price SOLD
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
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