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What's It Worth?

What is it? A Hitchcock chair with a rush seat, probably made in the 1940s by the Hitchcock Chair Co. in Connecticut.

November 14, 1998|KATHY BRYANT

What is its history?

Handcrafted Hitchcock furniture began in the early 1800s when Lambert Hitchcock, a famous American chair maker, began making fancy chairs and cabinets in Hitchcocksville, Conn.

He created an identity for his furniture by applying elaborate stencil designs with complementary striping and banding to accent the chairs' contours. After his death and the closing of his factory, "Hitchcock" became a generic term for many forms of stenciled furniture.

In the mid-1940s, Hitchcock Chair Co. was resurrected to reproduce in exact detail the original furniture designs and stencils. This company is still in business.

What's the legend?

This particular chair was bequeathed to Santa Ana resident Allison Bloom by her grandmother. "My grandmother, Crystal Dunn, was a private secretary and personal chef for director Alfred Hitchcock, and he gave the chair to her. I always thought the chair was named after him," she said.

What is it worth today?

Americana and country furniture are popular with many collectors.

"Unfortunately this chair is too worn," said Tom Stansbury, owner of Tom Stansbury Antiques in Newport Beach. "The cornucopias facing each other indicate that this is probably a reproduction. You can tell also by the nails. Cut nails were used in the 1840s. This would be a very valuable chair today if the painting was intact and it was actually from the 1800s."

Reproduction side chairs sell new for $200 to $350. With a rush seat, they retail for more than $600.

"This chair is considered used furniture and might not be worth as much," a Hitchcock representative said. "She can only have it refinished."

The stencil is not available to the public because it is done by a series of metal overlays airbrushed on the piece. There is a restoration center (800 332-2747.

Stansbury said the chair would probably sell for about $75 at an antiques shop. If it could be proved that Alfred Hitchcock owned it, it would probably be worth more.

Where can I find it?

The original chairs are rare and would probably only be found at auctions or private sales. Reproductions are still being sold nationwide.

How can I find out more?

There are chapters on Hitchcock chairs in books on American furniture. More information can be found on the Web site

* To have an item considered for this column, send information and a photo to: What's It Worth? Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa CA. 92626. Please include a telephone number.

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