This exhibit brings together 75 ladder back, or “common” chairs from the Tar-Roanoke River region of North Carolina, most of them made between 1800-1925. Guest curators Hiram Perkinson and Mark R. Wenger present these beautiful examples of early craftsmanship to illustrate the distinct chair-making traditions found in the counties clustered around the North Carolina-Virginia state line. The curators have grouped the chairs by county of origin or by a shared defining feature.
Once found in households in every economic bracket, common chairs were relegated to working class households over the course of the 19th century. The exhibit highlights how simple things like wood choices and turning patterns illuminate how these common chairs were used in courtrooms and kitchens, parlors and porches. They are a legacy of craftsmanship to be enjoyed by every North Carolinian.
Hiram Perkinson, III is a native North Carolinian. He worked in higher education, historic restoration and museums. He is a longtime collector of common chairs.
Mark R. Wenger is an architect and historian from Williamsburg, Virginia. Raised in Wilson, North Carolina, Wenger has been studying and collecting common chairs for nearly fifteen years.