Victorian Tables From Jamestown

The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.

If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or to share your memory or get an answer to your question.

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If you have ever visited the Fenton Mansion you may realize that there are many places that items can be stored such as closets, smaller rooms and even out-of-the-way corners. One such closet we refer to as the photo closet as it contains some of the larger size photos and some albums. The shelves go to the high ceiling, and they are full. As personnel changes some items are forgotten. They were not cataloged into a public catalog, and they have continued to sit safely on the shelf. Recently a small box was looked at and the contents are a wonderful collection from a well- known furniture manufacturer.

The company is the Maddox Table Company, started in 1898 by William J. Maddox. The company made tables, parlor tables and library tables. In 1919, Shearman Bros. purchased the company, and in 1978 it was again purchased by Crawford Furniture, and the name was gone by 1984.

The collection that again saw the light of day a few days ago contains about 900 cyanotypes of the tables offered by the Maddox Table Company. Cyanotypes are a type of photograph, blue in color like blueprints that architects used. They are inexpensive to produce but can fade if not kept in the right conditions. Each table design was numbered consecutively, and orders were taken by the table number. The collection rediscovered is not complete as far as numbers are concerned. The numbers go into the 1300s, but possibly a quarter to a third of the cyanotypes are not in the collection. Another collection in our Special Collections had a few other cyanotypes including Table No. 1 and some early price lists.

The 1899 price list included Table No. 1 as seen in the above photograph. It was available in Golden Oak for $3.75 and in Mahogany for $4.75. These are dealer prices, so we do not know what the retail price was. Table No. 302, also seen in the above photograph, was included in the spring, 1900 price list. In Golden Oak, it sold for $10.50 and in Mahogany, it was $12. It was also sold without the carved head for $8.50 in Golden Oak and for $10 in Mahogany. Other finishes in which other tables were available include Flemish Oak, Imitation Mahogany, Marquetry, Vernis Martin, Green and Gold, White Enamel, Birds-Eye Maple and Curly Birch. During the early years most of the tables were offered in Golden Oak or Mahogany.

This collection will now be processed and cataloged into the Special Collections and thus accessible for research. We receive many requests for information about furniture manufactured in Jamestown and any photographs, price lists and catalogs help us date and provide other information about someone’s newly acquired antique furniture.

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The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County’s history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.

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If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.