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Carving out a seat at the Reinhart factory

July 13, 2015

Filed under Collections, Community and Domestic Life, Exhibits, Pennsylvania Icons, Pennsylvania Treasures

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In 1872, furniture craftsmen employed by George Reinhart Steam Chair & Cabinet Factory created this green-painted, wooden chair. German immigrant Martin Reinhart founded the factory in Hazleton, Pa. in 1840. In addition to the factory, Reinhart also operated a retail furniture store at the same location. The operations were the first of its kind in Hazleton.

When he opened the factory, Reinhart staffed his business with unpaid apprentices who lived nearby. Reinhart compensated his apprentices with room and board, as well as providing for their training as furniture craftsmen. At the end of their three-year term, each apprentice received $100 and papers certifying they had successfully completed their training. Former apprentices were elevated to journeymen and paid regular wages for their work. The apprenticeship system ensured all workers were highly trained and could produce quality furniture. The Reinhart factory manufactured furniture by hand from 1840 until around 1872, when this chair was made. Under the leadership of Martin Reinhart’s son, George, the factory added machinery that helped the company boost its furniture output.

Known as a “fancy chair” for its elaborate and brightly-colored decoration, chairs like this were popular throughout the 19th century as furniture manufacturing flourished in Pennsylvania. This type of decorative chair was affordable, especially among middle-class Americans. In addition to an image of the Reinhart factory, the chair’s stenciled design features traditional Pennsylvania German motifs of birds, fruit and foliage. Those hand-crafted patterns were applied by a specially- trained worker.

CAP curator Jennifer Gleim selected this “fancy chair” as this week’s Pennsylvania Treasure. The artifact will be on display this fall at The State Museum as part of the upcoming Pennsylvania Icons exhibit.

 

About Pennsylvania Icons:
Featuring a diverse array of artifacts from the collections of the State Museum of Pennsylvania and other Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission historic sites and museums, Pennsylvania Icons tells the story of our commonwealth, its people and the role they played in shaping the nation. The exhibit features historic artifacts ranging from a 1654 map of the Philadelphia region to pieces of the Walnut Street bridge in Harrisburg. Pennsylvania Icons opens to the public on Sunday, November 8, 2015.

 

About Pennsylvania Treasures:
In early 2012, The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission launched the Collections Advancement Project (CAP), a program to inventory and catalog our vast and significant holdings of art and artifacts. These efforts are resulting in better stewardship of our collections which represent Pennsylvania arts, culture, history, sciences, business and agriculture. As a component of the project, CAP curators have researched rarely exhibited artifacts and works of art. We are sharing these Pennsylvania Treasures with the public through weekly updates.