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Though the Cohasset Colonials enterprise has
occasionally succumbed to the quaint-but-what-is-it line of antiques--an
eighteenth century sleigh seat that will hold potted plants, and a candle stand
that will just about support an ash tray are examples of this school--the
Hagertys have for the most part limited their reproductions to functional
pieces. A drop-leaf dining table, a captain's chair from the Williams College
Museum, a slant-front dresser (or china closet) reproduced from an original in
Old Sturbridge Village, a folding or tuck-away table, a low cotage bed, a
courting mirror and blanket chest and various sets of colonial shelves are
typical of the pieces which round out their line. This fall the Hagertys are
adding a child's chair, a Windsor armchair and a settle-bench--all eighteenth
century pieces--to their collection. Fran thinks they'll probably stop
expanding the line when they have forty reproductions to offer.
"That will be just about our capacity here. We have a good group in the shop and a pleasant working life, and we'd like to keep it a small business. This way, the shop can work two or three days on one piece and then switch to another, so the job never gets too monotonous. An when you're small you have time to get to know your customers--which, we've found, is half the fun of Cohasset Colonials."
The Hagertys are sincere in presenting their knocked-down kits as a do-it-yourself project, and their claim is supported by the fact that many veterans' hospitals and institutions for the blind buy the kits as part of their therapy programs. Ther are occasions, however (for wood is a challenging material at best), when the average fumble-fingered home craftsman must be prepared to contribute honest sweat and a good deal of muttered invective to the task of getting the right parts in the right places. The captain's chair (which this writer conquered after a stiff battle) is one of the pieces with an intransigence all its own--and it was the captain's chair which almost hoisted the Hagertys with their own Early American petard. Mary Hagerty, who is surely the prettiest furniture manufacturer in the business, tells the story:
"Some months ago a young man on a Boston television show ran out of subjects and asked us if we'd appear as a husband-and-wife team and bring one of our knocked-down kits. During the last ten minutes of the show we were to assemble the kit in front of the camera. Fran and I decided to use the captain's chair because it was one of our new items at the time. The chair is a little complicated because the back is formed of a semicircle of spindles that have to fit both into the seat and the back rest and arms. Fran and I worked on the routine all one weekend so that we'd be ready for the Monday-morning show. We wouldn't have time to use glue on the joints, so the assembly job had to be perfect--Fran's idea was to sit in the chair, once he had it together.