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July 9, 2012

Colonial Williamsburg Acquires Pair of Governor’s Council Chairs

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has purchased two antique chairs used in the Governor’s Council Chamber of the Capitol prior to the American Revolution. Properly termed back stools in the 18th century, the chairs are probably from a set of 12 ordered from England about 1750.

The council consisted of 12 elite Virginians who met in the chamber to advise the governor on matters of concern to the entire colony. Befitting their position in society and government, the counselors were furnished expensive chairs made of highly carved tropical mahogany, upholstered in red silk and adorned with polished brass tacks. In addition to mahogany, the chairs’ construction includes oak, cherry, beech, ash and Scots pine.

The matching armchair for the royal governor has been in the Colonial Williamsburg collection since 1930.

Fiber evidence discovered on the chair frames suggests that the original upholstery was of red silk. The same upholstery and tacking pattern also were used on the royal governor’s armchair along with a silk fringe. Upholstery evidence on the three chairs, including brass tack patterns and nailing patterns for the webbing and textiles, indicates that they were originally upholstered by the same artisan. During conservation, the chair was upholstered non-intrusively in reproduction red silk velvet with brass tacks.

This expensive seating form was rarely seen in Virginia. Only two Virginia families — the Beverleys of Blandfield Plantation and the Byrds of Westover Plantation — are known to have owned sets of imported British back stools in the mid-18th century.

Conservation of one of the chairs is complete, and the chair is on view in the Masterworks Gallery of the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, 326 W. Francis St., Williamsburg. Admission to the museum is by Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket, Museums Pass or Good Neighbor Card.

Acquisition of the chairs was made possible by funds from the Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections and a gift from Robert Iverson of Hinsdale, Ill., through the TIF Foundation in memory of his late wife, Michelle A. Iverson.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg include the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum and the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is home to the nation’s premier collection of American folk art, with more than 5,000 folk art objects made during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum exhibits the best in British and American decorative arts from 1670–1830.

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are located at the intersection of Francis and South Henry Streets in Williamsburg, Va., and are entered through the Public Hospital of 1773. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For museum program information, telephone (757) 220-7724.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley
(757) 220-7281