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This armchair, presented to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on his 72nd birthday by the children of Cambridge, was constructed of wood taken from the "spreading chestnut-tree" immortalized in Longfellow's poem "The Village Blacksmith." The tree was cut down in 1876 by the city of Cambridge as part of a project to widen Brattle Street. Contributions from local children paid for Boston-based cabinet maker H. Edgar Hartwell to make the chair.


Hartwell created an ebonized Eastlake-style piece with low-relief carvings of chestnut tree leaves and blossoms, and incorporated the following lines from the poem around the seat rail:


And children coming home from school Look in at the open door; ...And catch the burning sparks that fly Like chaff from a threshing-floor.


Longfellow recorded the gift in a February 27, 1879 journal entry "My seventy-second birthday. A present from the children of Cambridge of a beautiful armchair, made from the wood of the Village Blacksmith's chestnut-tree."


Longfellow was so pleased by the chair that it inspired him to compose another poem, titled "From My Armchair", in which he thanked the children for their gift. The chair was placed in Henry's study next to the fireplace, and family lore stated that Henry welcomed in any child who wished to view it. It remains there to this day, a tangible reminder of Longfellow's vast celebrity during his lifetime and of his reputation as a poet who wrote for all audiences.

Details

  • Title: Chair
  • Creator: H. Edgar Hartwell
  • Date Created: 1879
  • Contributor: Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site
  • Park Website: Park Website
  • National Park Service Catalog Number: LONG 4469
  • Measurements: L 59.4, W 69.2, H 111.1 cm
  • Material: Wood, leather, brass, glass

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