ANTIQUES AND COLLECTING: Early American furniture used expensive imported material

By Terry and Kim Kovel

This chair is made of a local wood, cypress, and local material for the seat by a Louisiana craftsman who sold inexpensive handmade furniture in the early 1800s. It sold for $427 in a recent sale of Louisiana antiques by Neal Auctions. (Kovels)

Furniture made in America during its early days sometimes used expensive imported material like mahogany with hardware from Europe. But local woods, like pine, oak, walnut and cedar, iron and even paint were available and inexpensive. The use of a local wood helps identify furniture made in New Mexico, Louisiana and parts of Pennsylvania.

An early 19th-century ladderback chair from Louisiana was sold at a recent Neal auction. It was made of cypress wood, which is rot-resistant, hard and durable, has few knots, a light golden color, and, best of all, found near the furniture maker. The chair could also be dated from the shape of the stiles, rungs and its corn husk seat. Modern copies of this type of chair to be used outdoors are made of cypress because it lasts longer than other woods.

The ladderback chair sold in the auction is 32 inches high and a comfortable 17 inches deep. It sold for $427. Cypress furniture is still being used but mainly for outdoor and garden furniture.


Q: We’re downsizing and have to sell a beautiful Victorian baby stroller or carriage we’ve had for many years. There are large wicker scrolls on the sides, a cane seat and a scrolled woven footrest. The back wheels are much larger than the front wheels. It’s in good, but not perfect, condition. What is it worth and where can we sell it?


A: The first push baby carriage was invented in 1848. It looked more like a stroller than a carriage. Wicker carriages with fancy scrollwork were popular in the 1880s and 1890s. They don’t meet today’s safety standards but are interesting, decorative items. Your wicker stroller would be hard to ship, so you should see if a local antiques shop or a consignment shop can sell it. If your stroller or carriage is very decorative, a buyer might use it to hold magazines or plants. If it’s in great condition and an unusual shape, it could sell for $200 to $300.



Lladro figurine, Spotted Brown Cow, reclining, marked, 7 inches long, $50.

Chair, chrome, continuous arm frame, cantilevered seat, green fabric, Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin, 32 x 22 inches, $175.

Libbey glass jam jar, lid and underplate, Harvard pattern, oval, faceted finial on lid, American Brilliant Period, 9 inches, $345.

Necklace, pendant, three Muses dancing, trees on sides, tortoiseshell, openwork, tortoiseshell link chain, c.1925, pendant 2 3/4 inches, chain 30 inches, $530.


TIP: To get a good shine on your antique furniture, use more rubbing, not more polish.


Learn about the record-setting prices scores of items have brought in recent years in the new “Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2022.” It is the ONLY antiques price guide that empowers collectors with the most up-to-date price information based on actual sales and market data. Available in stores and online, it makes a great gift.


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