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| so a final change to a synthetic fiber rush was
made after the chair had been in production for some months. The fiber rush,
with a kraft-paper base, looks like the natural rush and is much stronger.
Once the Hagertys had decided one the modifications necessary in the original ladder-back, Fran took the full-scale drawings and went to work in the shop, where a force of seven or eight men were still turning out the Seashell kits.
"I made the prototype chair myself. When the turnings on the legs were completed, I took them up and compared them with the original chair in the museum--trying to get as close a match as possible. Another thing--I found I had to add a little to the length of the legs to give the chair a comfortable height. Apparently the legs on the original had been worn down a bit over the years. As soon as the prototype had been worked out satisfactorily, the men in the shop made up the jigs--the patterns they had to follow--and turned out the parts for about a hundred of the chairs. By this time is was the late fall of 1949--we'd been working on our project for nine months. Now we had to find out who'd buy our baby. We decided to price it at $9.95, postage prepaid.
"With the help of an advertising agency that had worked on the Seashell sales program, we wrote a simple mailing piece describing the 'Authentik Cohasset Colonial' ladder-back and prepared an advertisement to appear in the magazine section of a New York Sunday newspaper."
"And now, " relates Mary, "we ran into a whole new set of questions without answers. Nobody had ever tried to sell a knocked-down reproduction of a museum piece by mail before, and about all the mail-order experts could tell us was that it was an accepted axiom in the trade that you couldn't sell anything, by mail, that cost over seven dollars. And there we were--with our hundred $9.95 chairs all ready to go.
"We knew, of course, that to build a successful mail-order business you needed both a mailing list of active customers and a whole line of items you could offer them. By this time we were already busy with the plans for an armchair ladder-back we'd found in the Boston Museum--a relative of our first chair. But as for the mailing list--well, we just inserted our little advertisement and hoped for the best."
The best appeared, two days after the advertisement appeared, in the form of a dozen requests for further information. The descriptive flyer was