In the United States, the years after the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition witnessed a widespread renewal of interest in the Colonial period in American history. This armchair is a wonderful example of the new interpretation of late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century furniture styles that came to be known as Colonial Revival. The back splat recalls the designs of Thomas Sheraton (1751–1806), with the Prince of Wales feathers in the center above a tied-ribbon motif, and the legs end in spade feet reminiscent of George Hepplewhite's (d. 1786) designs. But despite these references, the chair is clearly a product of the 1880s in its robust interpretation of those earlier historical styles. It is one of two armchairs manufactured as part of a set with twelve side chairs by the Boston firm of A. H. Davenport for the dining room of the Benjamin Head Warder house, designed by Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886) and built during the years 1885 to 1888 in Washington, D.C. The firm of A. H. Davenport and its principal designer, Francis H. Bacon, were important purveyors of interior decoration and furniture during the late nineteenth century and were frequently commissioned by such leading architects as McKim, Mead and White and H. H. Richardson. While this armchair retains its original leather seat covering—thought to have been a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century embossed, painted, and gilded wallcovering that was cut into pieces for use as upholstery—its mate and eleven of the side chairs, now in the Castle collection at the Smithsonian Institution, have been recovered; the twelfth side chair, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, retains its original leather covering. In the nineteenth century, dining room chairs were typically covered in leather to facilitate cleaning and maintenance.
Benjamin Head Warder, Washington, D.C., died 1894; his daughter, Alice Warder Garrett, Baltimore; estate sale, Evergreen Foundation, 1968; Dr. Richard Howland, Washington, D.C., 1968; Geoffrey Bradley, New York, until 1993