‘Frog Backs to Turkey Legs’

William Buttre trade label, 1813-1814. From the Joseph Downs Collection, Winterthur.

High-backs, low-backs, ball-backs, sack-backs, crown backs. The terms used by chairmakers to describe the details of a chair are various and often confusing. The 1996 issue of American Furniture included a meaty article by Nancy Goyne Evans (author of many books and article on chairs) titled ‘Frog Backs to Turkey Legs: The Nomenclature of Vernacular Furniture 1740-1850.’

You can read the full article here.

Suzanne Ellison

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3 Responses to ‘Frog Backs to Turkey Legs’

  1. Richard Mahler says:

    I clicked on the Evans article and the first chair pictured – the slat back Delaware Valley chair – is identical to one that came to us through my wife’s Pennsylvania/New York family except ours is without arms. It goes back four at least four generations based on photographs, and we have wondered how old it may be.


  2. Jeremy Kriewaldt says:

    On the subject of books on chairs – after reading this review https://www.woodreview.com.au/reviews/celebrated-chairs
    I bought and read Denis Lake’s recent (2016) book, The Men who made the Celebrated Chairs. It tells the stories of George Peddle and Harry Hearn, bothers-in-law from High Wycombe who emigrated to Tasmania and made their version of Windsor chairs in Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both fascinating biography and great insight into the techniques and designs used.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Suzanne. The American Furniture issues are wonderful. Alongside the Evans article is one by Follansbee and Alexander. That’s worth the price alone. Heck, the photographs are worth buying the issues.


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