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A Congressional Arm Chair
Artist: A Bembe A Kemble/Thomas U. Walter 
Category: Furniture - American
Origin: America-USA
Era: 19th Century
A Carved Oak Arm Chair, New York, A. Bembe A. Kimbel, circa 1857.

Commissioned by Congress and 'designed by Thomas Ustick Walter, Architect of the U.S. Capitol Extension between 1851 and 1865, this impressive armchair was made for the newly renovated Capitol. Walter's original drawing dated May 28, 1857, is inscribed 'Design for Chairs of Halls of Congress.' The design combines late Classical, Renaissance, Rococo, and patriotic motifs that were in keeping with Walter's overall decorative theme for the Capitol. The chairs were ordered in 1857 from Bembe and Kimmel (sic.) by Quartermaster General Montgomery G. Meigs. They were in use in the House of Representatives from 1857-1873. In the latter year, the House was refurnished and the chairs were dispersed.'

Reference: Gregory R. Weidman, Furniture in Maryland, 1740-1940, The Collection of the Maryland Historical Society, page 229, no. 206.

In 1859, the House of Representatives sold some of these chairs at public auction. Several were purchased by renowned photographers such as Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner for use in portraits. Abraham Lincoln and his son Tad were photographed by Brady in one of the chairs.

Reference: Patricia E. Kane, The Magazine Antiques, May 1976, Furniture Owned by the Massachusetts Historical Society, page 969, Fig. 20.

Reference: William C. Ketchum, Jr., American Cabinetmakers, Marked American Furniture 1640-1940, page 35.

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