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Mother Dean
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« on: June 09, 2012, 06:31:13 PM »

Hello All,

I am wondering if anyone has any information regarding how to furnish a Pennsylvania German parlor. I have only been able to find one reference and it is from an "outside" point of view and I can't remember if it is referring to German or Pennsylvania German.

"The entry was of German simplicity, and a small room on the right, in which the Countess first with mischievous formality, requested Tremlet to be seated, was uncarpeted and furnished with the ill contrived conveniencies of a German parlor - evidently kept as a place of reception for any intrusive visitor whose curiosity might be troublesome."     From People I Have Met 1853


This settee was listed as Pennsylvania German on an antique/auction website

And them of course, a painted German chest would probably be called for but that is all that I am coming up with.

Other references that I have found are in more modern books that refer back to older sources and deal with German shop owners and the things they stocked for their community, such as books in German. So I know that there were some things that the Germans used that were the same as everyone else as well as special items that were specific to the culture. My problem is in determining what those things are.

There is a Mennonite Historical Society that I will be contacting as well and German Baptist in the area that I can talk to. Some of them still hold to "old ways" and perserving their heritage in daily life today. The local museums seem to only have items from later dates and don't really deal with the German culture.

Any other suggestions or resources would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much,
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Paula
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« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2012, 10:05:00 AM »

Jessica -- One of the things you are going to need to consider as you research is the terminology you are using.  You may try searching for information not just Pennsylvania German but Pennsylvania Dutch.  Having grown up in rural Schuylkill County PA, you are probably going to have better luck researching using Pennsylvania Dutch. 

I would also suggest getting a hold of the historical societies in Schuylkill, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties.  Their rural areas tend to still have a heavy German influence and you may have better luck finding the info you need.  My dad spoke PA Dutch fluently and German was the primary language spoken in the home of my great great grandparents even though the family had been in PA for about 100 years at that point.

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hanktrent
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2012, 03:26:01 PM »


This settee was listed as Pennsylvania German on an antique/auction website

Well, unfortunately I'm not any help at all in researching Pennsylvania German things, but I'm curious what makes that a German bench? It looks like a perfectly common American stenciled bench in the Hitchcock style, which came out of Connecticut originally but spread pretty much all over in the antebellum era.

The chairs and benches typically had backs and rails shaped like that, often painted black, with usually gold, fruit-and-floral stenciling on the backrest. The only thing that seems the least unusual is the series of three Hitchcock-chair-shaped backs side by side, rather than a long straight panel, but I can't imagine that's enough to make it German. Here are some other examples.

Hank Trent
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Beth Chamberlain
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« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2012, 07:05:38 PM »

Have you tried speaking to anyone at Landis Valley? I can't remember what eras all of their buildings are but they do cover the era. Also, IIRC Winterthur has a good collection of German influenced items from PA.

Beth
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Mother Dean
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2012, 07:58:02 PM »

Paula, Thanks for the tip. I have tried searching Pa Dutch as well with little success. Pa German is still taught as a first language in many of their schools and can be heard often in my area. I think that any historical references are going to be in that language. So, as you have suggested, I have begun looking into contacting those communities personally. I even found a website that teaches Pa German. Interestingly enough, but off topic, there is a talk next Monday about how the American Civil War affected the Mennonite community given by the Mennonite Historical Society. I think that it will be very interesting.

Also, thanks for sharing about your family history. I think that my great grandfather on my mother's side was from an Amish background in Lancaster. As far as I know, there was no German spoken in his home, but we do have a wonderful little German Bible and his surname is very common up there. As far as I know they don't participate in the census so I can only trace the genealogy back so far.

Hank, I am finding this a problem as well. It seems that over the years people, in this area, have gotten into the habit of calling any painted furniture, German. In The Practical Book of Period Furniture 1914 (I had to broaden my search years) there is an illustration of a painted chair from the Empire Period that is very commonly around here called a Painted German Chair. We even have one in our family that we have always referred to as such. BTW, love the link to all of those beautiful benches.



I am beginning to wonder if there was a difference in the style of furniture that would have been found in a German home. Furniture making is still very prevalent and I am wondering if they made the same styles for themselves as they made for sale to the public outside their communities.

The main thing that I am trying to stay away from is staging a German farmhouse parlor with high society furniture.

Beth, Thanks for those resources. I'll look into those. Smiley
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hanktrent
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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2012, 05:39:57 AM »

Hank, I am finding this a problem as well. It seems that over the years people, in this area, have gotten into the habit of calling any painted furniture, German. In The Practical Book of Period Furniture 1914 (I had to broaden my search years) there is an illustration of a painted chair from the Empire Period that is very commonly around here called a Painted German Chair. We even have one in our family that we have always referred to as such. BTW, love the link to all of those beautiful benches.

Huh. I wonder if it's like everything being sold as "Civil War"--civil war toothbrushes, civil war buttons, etc., even if they're perfectly normal civilian items that could have been 10 or 20 years before or after the war.

As far as I know, ethnic German furniture painting has a different look compared to the "regular" kind of stenciling/painting that was wildly popular around the antebellum era. I tried searching google images for distelfink schrank to try to pull up something and got an image of this little hanging cupboard, not a schrank of course, with carved distelfinks and traces of paint, which I'd suggest would be unique to a Pennsylvania German home (I can't really see the distelfinks on my monitor, but if they say they're there...): http://www.colonialsense.com/Antiques/AuctionResults/11-01/hangingcupboard.jpg But once you get beyond the obvious distelfinks and stuff, I don't know the finer nuances that distinguish German decorative art from American.

Don't know if sites like this might be any help: http://www.artfixdaily.com/artwire/release/9042-paint-pattern-and-people-furniture-of-southeastern-pennsylvania-1

Hank Trent
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Stephanie Brennan
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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2012, 06:09:27 AM »

http://www.quietvalley.org/ourfarm/buildings/farmhouse.htm
  
A german farm museum showing mixed eras.
 
 Phildadelphia museum of Art has Pennsylvania German made furniture but it is not shown online.  What I have seen so far has been early19th c. or 18th c.

Stephanie

added links; http://www.philly.com/philly/home/20100212_Love_signs_at_the_heart_of_Pennsylvania_folk_art.html

http://www.nga.gov/collection/gallery/iadpenn/iadpenn-main1.html
« Last Edit: June 11, 2012, 06:42:18 AM by Stephanie Brennan » Logged
Mother Dean
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« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2012, 07:45:52 PM »

Thank you all for your suggestions and links. I really appreciate the efforts.

I am finally getting someplace with this. However, I am having to rely on more recent documentation. What I am finding out is that the Pa German cabinet/furniture makers were making the same types of chairs that everyone else were making but with a twist. For example here is an interesting read on Windsor chairs. http://www.chipstone.org/publications/1993/Evans93/index.html Figure 3 and 4 are very early versions of German designs. I have also found some indication that they were making ladder back chairs such as are generally credited to the Shakers.

All of this still leaves me with the same question. What to put in the parlor? Hopfully the historical societies will have diaries and images/paintings/photos to help with this.

Thanks so much, again, for all of your suggestions.
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hanktrent
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2012, 04:34:36 AM »

Sounds like you're making progress! That link on the Windsor chairs was interesting. Ironically, it sounds like the subtleties are going to be expensive and probably unrecognized by most people. Getting custom-made (or finding original antique) Windsor chairs with specific seat proportions wouldn't be cheap.

I have also found some indication that they were making ladder back chairs such as are generally credited to the Shakers.

Is it the tape seats that are credited to the Shakers? As far as I know, ladder-back chairs were nationwide, cutting across most ethnic groups. The usual party line is that the Shakers typically made them with tape seats, rather than hickory, cane, etc. but I don't know whether that's true. But like Windsor chairs, I suspect you'd find that everybody was making ladderback chairs, with only a subtle difference to distinguish the ethnicity or region, as Shaker, German, etc.

Hank Trent
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Robin C
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2012, 07:27:34 AM »

Depending on where you are located, you might take a look at the type of painting/decoration on the pieces you plan to use.  There were many many makers of fine joiners and carpenters.  The previous bench could have been referenced to the southwestern PA with the stencils.  Somerset Co is noted for painted furniture with stencils in gold or silver, and it also has a different style be it from the northern part of the county of the southern part of the county.  Freehand painting was more for areas around Lancaster, Mifflin, Northumberland counties--all have different styles of painting.  A trained eye can usually tell the general area where it is from by the painting.

As to the parlor--I don't have paper documentation, but a Grandfather's clock is a good start.  Something to keep in mind is that most items were useful and not "just for pretty".

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