• 457 A RARE PAIR OF TURNED AND PAINTED WINDSOR BRACE CONTINOUSARM ARMCHAIRS. E. B. TRACY, LISBON, CONNECTICUT, CIRCA 1785
Each having an arched bowed crest continuing to form shaped handholds above twelve swelled spindles with two bracing spindles behind, the peaked saddle seat raised on splayed vase- and ring-turned legs joined by stretchers; painted dark brown over green; each chair branded on underside of seat E. B. Tracy. Height of seat 18 ½ in. (47 cm.); height of crest 38 ½ in. (97.8).
Ebenezer Tracy. Sr. (1744-1803), Lisbon, Connecticut
Born on April 20, 1744 to Andrew and Ruth Tracy, Ebenezer Tracy was a cabinetmaker, chairmaker, joiner and builder who worked in Lisbon, Connecticut during the late-eighteenth century. Tracy produced exceptional Windsor chairs frequently branded with his mark “EB: TRACY.” Over four decades, Tracey , his, sons Ebenezer Jr. and Elijah, his nephew Stephen, and son-in-law Amos Denison Allen created high quality furniture, including sack-back, bow-back, fan-back and continuous bow-back windsor chairs. These chairs are characterized by their swelled spindles, flared and bulbous balusters, tipped stretchers, hook-type crests, horizontally scrolled arms, hollowed seats, and large tapered feet. Many of the extant chairs documented to the Tracy workshop are considered masterpieces of American Windsor chair design.
Ebenezer Tracy’s estate inventory, compiled after his death in March of 1803, indicates he had a prolific and prosperous cabinetmaking workshop. Among the finished and unfinished furniture listed in his inventory was: “ A desk, and bookcase, 2 low bureaus, best table, 1 long table 7’, 2 Pembroke d[itto]o, 3 Candlestands, 50 clock cases, high post bed, 2 Common beds, Chest Drawers, Sideboard unfinished, Writing chair and cushing, 8 Cushioned bottomed Chairs, 6 yellow do, 22 green do, 1 large fiddleback do, 103 Chairs of different sets,, 6400 chair rounds & legs, 277 chairs bottoms” (Chase, Ada, “Ebenezer Tracy, Connecticut Chairmaker,” The Magazine Antiques (December 1936): 266).
The inventory also indicates that Tracy worked with an assortment of materials, such as: “148 feet mahogany, 2148 feet cherry board, 491 do birch and beech, 111 mangrove do, 516 feet pine do, 1503 do white wood, 579 do maple, 707 do chestnut, 571 oak joists.” Other material listed in the inventory include: “Copal varnish, Marble paint vat & grinder, 6lbs. emery, 12 gross screws, 4 drawer locks, 3 sets bureau trimmings, 35 escutcheons, 50 sundry paints, copel and other varnish.”
According to the inventory, the Tracy craftsmen used the following tools and equipment: “52 moulding tools, 27 Joiners plains, 76 Chysils, Gouges &c. 14 fines and coarse hands saws, 50 Iron square, 50 hold fast, Bench dog, Glue kettle, 2 Lead pots, Varnish pot, 12 lbs. glue, Stone yellow, 62 & 43 papers lamp black.”
Ebenezer Tracy was succeeded by his nephew Stephen, who advertised in the Norwich Courier on July 6: “… the Cabinet an the Chair making business is still carried on at the shop of the late Col. EBENEZER TRACY, in Lisbon” (Evans, Nancy Goyne, “The Tracy Chairmakers Identified,” Maine Antique Digest, (March 1982): 33-A).
Related Windsor chairs produced in the Tracy workshop are in the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection at Yale University, Colonial Williamsburg, the Slater Memorial Museum, the Bennington Museum, the collection of the State of Delaware, the Henry Ford Museum, and the Winterthur Museum.
For additional information on Ebenezer Tracy, see Chase, Ada R., “Ebenezer Tracy, Connecticut Chairmaker,” The Magazine Antiques (December 1936); Evans, Nancy Goyne, “The Tracy Chairmakers Indentified,” Maine Antique Digest (March 1982); and Evans Goyne, American Windsor Chairs, New York, 1996.
Ex-Collection of the Late Grace R. Nowels
Purchased from Martha E. Nowels, Tucson, Arizona, 1980
Highly Important Americana from Stanley Paul Sax Collection, January 16th-17th, 1998, SOTHEBY’S, New York.
Sale Code: 7087-SAX
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: 91.44 cm x 152.4 cm (36” x 60”)
Date of creation: April, 2016.