Dallas Bump (1918-2016) of Bear, Arkansas, was a fourth-generation chairmaker who learned the trade at a young age from his father, Fred Bump, son of Philander Bump. Philander Bump emigrated from France and opened the Bear Chair Shop shop in 1870 – the same shop out of which Bump worked more than a century later, using many of the tools and patterns that his father and grandfather had used.
Bump passed on the family tradition to his nephew, Leon Sutton, who worked with him to harvest and dry local hardwoods (mostly red and white oak) that became the hand-made chairs – constructed with no glue, nails, pegs or other fasteners – for which the family was known. From what I can tell, just about everyone in the family was involved at one time or another; the men made the structure, and the women wove the seats and backs from white oak.
Bump’s work was featured by the Smithsonian in several “folk life” exhibits, Southern Living magazine and many television programs, and one of his rocking chairs was in the White House during the Clinton administration.
Unfortunately, the Bear Chair Shop appears to now be closed. Nonetheless, the 2014 video below is a fascinating glimpse of Bump, his shop and the family chairmaking affair.
p.s. I’m am stealing Bump’s ingenious post-marking process for my staircase spindles. I’m sure others have used a similar approach, but as a non-turner, it’s the first time I’ve seen that.