Rare19th Century American Mahogany Rocker by William W. Roberts
A Rocking Chair made by an extraordinary man!
When we stripped the chair we found a signed label attached to the frame ( please see the photo) and we were able to find out some really interesting facts about Mr. William W. Robers a 19th Century furniture and coffin maker from Connecticut....and much, much more.
At the end of the Civil Was Roberts was hired by many local families and responsible for bringing home bodies of soldiers killed on the battlefield for proper burial.
In 1866 he built an Opera House in Hartford.
We do not know how or when the Rocker made its way to the UK, but it had been owned by a family in Hampshire for over 70 years before we came across it .
The chair has a lovely engraved rose on the top of the back panel. It is made from American Mahogany and has a beautiful red patina which compliments Blood Orange Harris Tweed. With a super comfy lumber support and fully sprung seat it is incredibly comfortable.
A really special piece!
"Born in in Newington, about seven miles from Hartford, Roberts was orphaned at an early age. After learning to become a carpenter, he operated a furniture business on Pratt Street in Hartford, across the street from a bank. Roberts later added an undertaking business and was known for the impressive innovation of adding glass to the sides of a hearse --the first man in the United States to do so. He became so good at coffin-making that his "burial caskets of artistic design earned him a reputation which extended throughout New England."
In September 1866, Roberts, a wealthy man, left the business of death for the entertainment business. In 1868, he built the Hartford Opera House on MainStreet and for 17 years "provided practically all of the professional entertainment in the city."
"Silent and uncommunicative by nature," Roberts died at age 84 on May 22, 1898. The man who was very fond of horses and "always had one or more handy steppers in his stable" is buried in Hartford's Spring Grove Cemetery, not far from where he once crafted coffins for the dead of Antietam.
"To recover remains of loved ones who died at Antietam, some Connecticut families paid for the services of William W. Roberts, a 48-year-old Hartford undertaker/coffin maker, who specialized in the grim task. In early October 1862, he returned home with a ghastly haul of eight bodies from the battlefield, including 26-year-old Jarvis Blinn of Rocky Hill. The well-regarded captain of Company F in the 14th Connecticut was shot through the heart on William Roulette’s farm.
In the Hartford Daily Courant, Roberts and businessman M.S. Chapman, a former Union soldier, frequently touted their body retrieval services: "...have it done in a thoroughly reliable manner, by one who has had much experience, and is well-acquainted with the different localities in the South," one advertisement noted.
Read another: "Persons having friends who have died in the army, and buried at Port Royal, Washington, Fortress Monroe, Shenandoah Valley, before Richmond, or anywhere within our lines can have their remains brought north for internment by applying at the office of Wm. W. Roberts."
"Those who have lost friends in the army and desire to procure their bodies," the newspaper reported, "will do well to consult W. W. Roberts, No. 12 Pratt St."
Even well into October 1864, months after the war ended, Roberts and Chapman advertised for their services."
Civil War history John Banks' Civil War blog Antietam