A metamorphic oval table, having four cabriole legs, ending in scrolled feet and casters. The top opens by hinges at the center, with one half serving as a desk (with inset drawer), the other half swiveling out on hinges to become a barrel back desk chair (facing the desk), upholstered in striped cut red velvet with brass nails.
This ingenious piece of library furniture closely resembles drawings accompanying Stephen Hedges' patent number 10,740 for a "convertible chair" in 1854, and is very similar in form to a walnut veneered example sold at Christies on October 3, 2007, stamped "Stephen Hedges New York.” That example sold for $5,250, including buyer’s premium; another example sold at Christies in January 1998, for what is likely an auction record -- $29,900, including buyer’s premium.
Hedges described his invention as "A new and useful Piece of Furniture, Intended to Serve as a Table Alone or as Chair and Table combined." Other similar examples are housed in museum collections at The Museum of the City of New York, the Morris-Jumel Mansion in upper Manhattan, and the Gallier House in New Orleans, Louisiana. The design is sometimes referred to as an "Aaron Burr desk," due to an apocryphal story that Burr had owned one, published in a New York Herald article in 1911. The story is now thought dubious though, because Burr's death predates Hedges' patent by 18 years. Still it is conceivable that Burr had a metamorphic desk that was a predecessor in design to the Hedges chair.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall aging, shrinkage, wear, minor restorations. Some shrinkage cracks and openings. Later upholstery clean and sound.
Anderson, Henry H. "Recap. of Stephen Hedges' 'Aaron Burr Desks'," unpublished mss., 1994, recorded in the Winterthur Library: Decorative Arts Photographic Collection.
"Sale 1882, Lot 30. Important American Furniture, 3 October, 2007, New York." Christies.com. http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=4964138&sid=53922d63-3b1c-48f3-b528-e8d43538ec7c (17 May 2011).
"Sale 8840, Lot 528. Highly Important Americana, 16 January 1998, New York." Christies.com. http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=474131&sid=49cabe30-5764-405a-98f0-89022bcfa886 (17 May 2011).