Maker: George Jakob Hunzinger (1835–1898)

Date: ca. 1876–85

Geography: Made in New York, New York, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Ebonized cherry, fabric-covered steel mesh

Dimensions: 39 5/8 x 67 3/8 x 22 5/8 in. (100.6 x 171.1 x 57.5 cm)

Classification: Furniture

Credit Line: Friends of the American Wing Fund, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.269


Progressive, innovative, and often patented, George Hunzinger's designs moved away from the historical references so common in nineteenth-century American furniture. Seeking a new source for aesthetic inspiration, Hunzinger frequently looked to the great invention of that era—the machine. This settee, with its interlocking, contiguous, and rhythmically repeated elements, conveys energy, implies movement, and resembles the very machines that produced it. One of only two known Hunzinger settees of this kind, and one of the few finished in black, this piece was part of a suite of furniture that included two armchairs, four side chairs, and a table. A pioneer in the use of interchangeable parts, Hunzinger drew directly from his design for the settee to create the armchairs and side chairs. Like other furniture makers in New York after the Civil War, he sought to satisfy the growing middle class by producing furniture that was not only presentable but also functional. Often referred to as "patent furniture," Hunzinger's designs frequently incorporated one or more of the twenty-one patents that he received during his lifetime. Here, the patented cloth-covered steel bands that form the seat and back of the settee were a novel alternative to the more commonplace use of cane seats and conventional upholstery.