Farewell to the Jefferson Campeche Chair

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For over 13 years Hammond-Harwood House has been the proud steward of this non-folding, reclining sling-seat Campeche chair. It sits in the Hammond-Harwood House study under an engraved map by Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter Jefferson, and Joshua Fry. This chair was originally a gift to Justice Gabriel Duval (1752-1844) by his close friend Thomas Jefferson while Duval was serving on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Campeche chair design had its origins in ancient Egypt and versions of these chairs with their identifiable x-shaped stretchers became fashionable in France and Spain during the 17th century. The name “Campeche” is an anglicized spelling of Campeachy, a Mexican state where mahogany was grown, which was the wood of choice for this type of furniture. We don’t really know where Jefferson first saw a Campeche chair, but we know he made inquiries and eventually had one shipped to him around 1819. Jefferson found this chair to be the most comfortable source of relief when he was suffering with rheumatism. There have been many variations on this design, but the chair here at Hammond-Harwood House is thought to have been made by Washington, D.C. cabinetmaker Henry V. Hill, who produced two versions of the popular chair.

The Duval family home, Marietta House (1813), located in Glen Dale, Maryland, remained with the Duval family until 1902 when its contents were dispersed to a number of institutions and museums. The chair, however, has been passed down through the Duval family and their descendants. It was gifted to Marietta House in 1993 and then given to the Hammond-Harwood House for a long-term loan that has now concluded. For as much as we will miss the Campeche Chair, we are honored to have had it on view and now pleased to see it return to its original home at Marietta House.

By Lucinda Dukes Edinberg, Hammond-Harwood House Curator


Posted on Oct 3, 2023 in , , by Hammond-Harwood House



Hammond-Harwood House

The mission of the Hammond-Harwood House Association is to preserve and to interpret the architecturally significant Hammond-Harwood House Museum and its collection of fine and decorative arts, and to explore the diverse social history associated with its occupants, both free and enslaved, for the purposes of education and appreciation.
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