Oak or ash with period (circa 1909) upholstery on the back, 38 ½" x 33" x 38"

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.

Circa 1906-1976: Purchased by Jane Byrd McCall Radcliffe-Whitehead from The Popular Shop in New York City for use at her home in the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony near Woodstock, New York. Jane and her husband Ralph founded and funded the colony, which is now famous for the furniture produced there. Their house was called “White Pines.” It was furnished eclectically with Italian antiques, textiles, and furniture purchased directly from William Morris, and mass-produced pieces from David Kendall’s Phoenix Furniture Company, Stickley Brothers, The Craftsman Company, and McHugh, among others.

1976-present: By descent from Peter Whitehead to Mark and Jill Willcox, Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.

“The Distinction of Being Different: Joseph P. McHugh and the American Arts and Crafts Movement,” 1993, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York. The chair is illustrated in the catalogue on page 49, plate number 21.