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"By the time we had a half a dozen pieces in our
line we began to get requests from customers with small dining areas who wanted
a chair that was smaller than the ladder-back--and they wanted a chair with a
solid seat, so that they wouldn't be faced with the weaving job. We immediately
thought of a Windsor chair, and set out on a hunt through museums for the
Windsor--a chair that would be simple in design and easy to assemble."
The Hagertys finally found their chair in the American Wing of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The curator of the wing, Vincent Andrus, obligingly plucked the chair from an exhibit and let Fran and Mary go to work on it.
"We spent several days on our hands and knees taking the lines off the Windsor. Then we came home and drew up the plans and sent our specifications around to the mills and suppliers--because we always have to know, to a fraction of a cent, how much each part of each piece will cost to produce. Everything went fine with this chair--and it was a little beauty--until we began to figure out the cost of reproducing the bent back with scrolled ends. These scrolls had been hand-carved in the original; to reproduce them mechanically called for a certain type of router, and the expense of the router and its operation would have raised the price of the chair, knocked down, to about thirty dollars. That was out of our price range--and you can buy a finished Windsor for thirty dollars--so we had to tear up all our plans and start over again. We'd spent about six months working on that beautiful but impossible Windsor."
The Hagertys later found a Windsor more suited to their purpose--a chair of the bird-cage design--in the Harrison Gray Otis House, the Boston headquarters of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities. They now price this chair at $12.95, express collect.
On one occasion the Hagertys' lust for something old proved their undoing. In the Jabez Howland House in Plymouth (built 1667, the dwelling is the sole survivor of the original Plymouth settlers' houses) they found a pine water bench. The three shelves of the bench fitted into dovetail grooves cut into the upright end boards. The whole design was simple and seemed perfectly practical, and it wasn't until they had produced and sold a number of the water benches that the Hagertys discovered that fitting the shelves into the grooves was no job for a householder--if the end boards swelled or the shelves warped at all after they had been machined, the unhappy purchaser couldn't put the cursed piece together. After replacing a number of the water benches, the Hagertys quietly relegated the piece to an Early American limbo.