Chairs reveal bit of family history

Life can be full of surprises. Sometimes we learn a little bit of family history from the items we acquire.
My grandparents moved from Hudson, Ont. to Neepawa Man. as my grandfather took up a new position with the Canadian National Railway in 1952.
They moved from a small two-bedroom home into a two-storey home with a living room, dining room, and kitchen with a huge pantry. New furniture was acquired for the multiple rooms in their new home.
The home in Hudson barely could hold the four children, let alone a large, round dining room table with a china cabinet and sideboard. Sometime along the move, they acquired this beautiful dining room suite, which my sister inherited from my grandmother.
The round table sits in her kitchen while the china cabinet and sideboard adjoin the table in her dining room. The chairs, which were in a great state of disrepair, were stored in my mother’s home.
Rather than selling the chairs or throwing them out, collectively we made a decision to have me repair the chairs and move them to our cabin.
We expected that a little bit of gluing and sanding would be all that was needed.
I brought the chairs home on Saturday and upon closer inspection, I discovered the jute webbing on several of the chairs was broken and the fiberboard seats holding the filling was split.
As I removed the tacks from the leather chairs, the thread joining the leather seemed to disintegrate. The leather pieces were going to have to be sewn together again.
On the inside of the fibreboard, labels from the Stratford Chair Company indicated who had made the chairs.
A surprise was discovering the seat had a layer of horse hair, followed by a layer of straw, then a second layer of horse hair covered by a burnished brown leather covering.
The chair company existed from 1905-52. Family history tells the story that the dining room set was not purchased new. As more seats were uncovered, a piece of box cardboard from the Hudson’s Bay store was found.
Another chair showed a Winnipeg Tribune story from 1947 announcing the King and Queen were travelling aboard the HMS Vanguard, a battle cruiser, with their children to South Africa.
Another Tribune paper from Jan. 8, 1952 added more information to the history of the table set.
The Stratford Chair Company marketed its furniture as a mid-priced option and most sets were sold through Eaton’s, Hudson’s Bay, and Simpson’s. I have since learned that the furniture was purchased from Wilson’s in Winnipeg. They would recondition used furniture before resale.
It clearly can be demonstrated that the chairs are at least 70 years old–and if they needed repairing, they could be almost 100 years old. The golden brown patina of the quarter sawn oak has become more beautiful. The coloring of the white oak was created by fuming the wood with ammonium hydroxide. Hopefully I can give the chairs more years of life. Hopefully, I can give the chairs more years of life.

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