“THE MISSION LOW-DOWN CHAIR”
Branded “The McHugh Mission Furniture: Made in New York”
Joseph McHugh (1854-1916) was the self-proclaimed originator of Mission Furniture. His account of basing a design on a chair he found in a California mission is still credited today, even though the inspirational chair had been made for a modern Church of the New Jerusalem. Despite such advertising gimmicks and calling his showrooms “The Popular Shops,” McHugh was never a major player in the American Arts and Crafts movement. It is more than likely that he wouldn’t have sought such a niche market within the burgeoning decorating industry.
Much McHugh furniture is flimsy and tarted up with “missionizing” details. But the Low-Down Chair, however mimetic, is a sturdy and radical departure from the products of other American factories seeking to profit from the craze for Arts and Crafts style.
Some have likened the design of this chair to the Westport, New York, Adirondack chair because of the wide flat arms. Another possible design source is a French Art Nouveau chair published in a 1900 issue of Art and Decoration. The design is also similar to some early nineteenth-century American “Campeche” or plantation chairs.
1976-present: By descent from Peter Whitehead to Mark and Jill Willcox, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.