Previous Next Pioneers & Immigrants Exhibit Page Home Search
Record 232/261
Copyright Oshkosh Public Museum
Enlarge Image
Description Chair of carved oak wood with leather covered seat, back and armrests. Carvings of oak leaves, stars, laurel leaves, and U.S. seal. Image of chair can be seen in the oil portrait of Senator Sawyer 612-3, chair shown upholstered in red velvet. Chair also in photograph of the den of the Edgar Sawyer house (now the Oshkosh Public Museum).

Documentation found by the Upper Midwest Conservation Association shows that this chair and companion desk were most likely purchased as government surplus by Philetus Sawyer in Washington, D.C. not Madison. Documentation and patent paper diagrams match the chair and desk. The pieces were commissioned by the House of Representatives, chairs made by the A. Bembe & A. Kimbel and the desks by Doe Hazelton Company of Boston, Massachusetts.

Chair also pictured and described in an unidentified newspaper clipping dated December 15, 1974 written by Ralph and Terry Kovel: "Government surplus has been sold for centuries. Many of the items once considered "extras" by officials in Washington are now highly prized possessions of collectors. Illustrative of this are the desk and chairs which were specially designed and made for the United State House of Representatives. The chairs, sold at auction in 1859, were made of oak and oak veneer by Bembe and Kimmel in 1857 at New York City. The carved Victorian armchairs, designed by the quartermaster general, Montgomery C. Meigs, were too heavy to be used as desk chairs and therefore were sold. Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner, two famous photographers of the day, purchased some of the chairs. Many pictures showing clients of theirs seated in some of the house of representatives chairs still exists. The most famous is one of President Abraham Lincoln taken in 1860...."

Chair and desk wrongly identified for years from the wrong information passed on by descendent of Philetus Sawyer. This documented in an newspaper article printed April 4, 1928 (unidentified newspaper clipping found in archives scrapbook): MUSEUM RECEIVES INTERESTING GIFT. ...The Oshkosh public museum had been made the recipient of a valuable and interesting gift--a desk and chair used by the late Sen. Philetus Sawyer in the state chamber at Madison. The Capitol having been refurnished at that time, senators were allowed to purchase, from the state, their desk and chair....

Bembe and Kimmel:
(Information taken from website Typical of "the best American cabinetmakers and designers working in New York during the second half of the nineteenth century, Anton Kimbel (1822-1895), received extensive European training, prior to arriving in the United States in 1848. HImself, the some of Wilhelm Kimbel (1786-1869) and godson of Anton Bembe (1799-1861), two of Mainz largest furniture producing firms. He was trained to design and run a furniture factory in Mainz and perfected his knowledge of furniture making in Cologne and Brussels, then in Paris with Fourdinois and Guilmard, and finally in St. Petersburg with Nerkin. After arriving in New York at the age of 26, he worked as the principal designer for Charles Baudouine, whom Ernest Hagen described as "the leading cabinetmaker" of the period. After 3 years with Baudouine, Anton Kimbel and his brother Martin (1835-1921), with the financial assistance of some 30,000. gulden from their uncle Anton Bembe in Mainz, opened for themselves on Walker Street as Bembe and Kimbel, By 1857, they relocated to Broadway Street, which was considered the "center of fine cabinetmaking" in New York. With the death of Anton Bembe in 1861, who appears to have had only a financial interest in the company, the firm dissolved. Following the closure, Anton Kimbel joined Joseph Cabus as Kimbel & Cabus and the firm went on to enjoy a celebrated career, which included a noteworthy exhibition at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia."

RELATED OBJECT NOTE: I96.8.4.1A desk, destroyed in 1994 fire
Dimensions H-38.5 W-27 D-27 inches
Year Range from 1857
Year range to 1900
Material Wood
Object ID I96.8.4.1B
Object Name Chair
People Sawyer, Philetus Horace
Used Philetus Horace Sawyer
COPYRIGHT INFORMATION ~ For access to this image, contact

NOTICE: This material may be freely used by non-commercial entities for educational and/or research purposes as long as this message remains on all copied material. These electronic pages cannot be reproduced in any format for profit or other presentation without the permission of The Oshkosh Public Museum. 2005 Oshkosh Public Museum, All Rights Reserved   
Last modified on: December 12, 2009