There’s a consignment store type of place near me that’s closing down for good. I don’t know the reasons and perhaps the chap just wants to retire, put up his feet and read novels, but in any case it prompted me to go inside. I had walked past the shop a few times, but it was always on the way to somewhere, and since I am perpetually five minutes late everywhere (sorry, I am indeed one of those people) I never made it inside. I didn’t even realise it was a consignment shop until I ventured through the door. Right enough, it turned out to be a high end consignment store, in that they were obviously quite choosy and so the merchandise wasn’t cheap. But it was a 50%-off-the-sale-price-tags deal… and that always warrants a closer look.
There were lots of nice things in the shop, but I have a house full of stuff that already makes my husband sigh and shake his head in a blowfish kinda pursed-lipped way, so I only picked up a large red book that I thought interesting… it was a 1949 edition of Childcraft Vol 13: Art and Music. I’m a big children’s book fan, but I’ll leave that for another time. Suffice it to say I’m going through it with pleasure.
I was chatting to the shop owner as I paid for the book, and then I suddenly saw by the exit door… the CHAIR. “Oof” I said, “That’s lovely!”. Isn’t it just? said the owner. It’s a 50s vintage rocker and swiveller from Tacoma. It was patented here actually. And the fabric is original too.”
Of course, the fabric was what had attracted me in the first place (it’s a bugger to take photos of). Mid-green, with gold flecks and a substantial fringe at the base, this was a serious fabric that had/has only a tiny bit of wear. Even that is just where the rocker hit the wall, so I kind of like that – used but loved, judging by the great condition. It’s fairly short and squat and I very much liked the 50s curved ease of the arms.
I really, really don’t need another chair in my place, but it was… $225 down from $299… and then the 50%! Yep, for $112 this little piece of local history could be mine. When you convert it to pounds (which I inevitably do when trying to justify a purchase) it sounds even less. Only 76 of our British pounds for a local relic!! What’s a girl to do?
I bought it.
It’s currently sitting in my son’s nursery as it doesn’t fit properly in our living room. We’re renting right now though, so I know the perfect spot is in my future!
I did a little digging and I must admit I couldn’t find too much about the company online (it might have been taken over by a larger company but I couldn’t find anything official), but I did find the patent that the shop owner was referring to. The chair was made by George W. Slyter Sons Inc. of Tacoma. From what I understand it was the addition of the swivel function to the rocker that was the patented part, but hey, I’m no patent or furniture expert.
There was also this picture of the Slyter factory from 1955, which shows large bolts of upholstery materials in the back right of the picture. These were cut on the long table to their left and then sewn on the sewing machines in the foreground of the picture. They look pretty old-school to me (treadles I think?), but perhaps that was the norm still in the 50s.
I also found one other piece of info. I found a 1927 picture of some display rooms from the “Washington Parlor Furniture Company” of Tacoma, which reportedly went out of business in 1933 during the Depression and was owned by none other than… George Slyter. I can’t swear it’s the same guy, but chances are they’re at least related. Seemingly, the company was “known for its overstuffed furniture”, which doesn’t sounds too complimentary. As of 1927, Tacoma was apparently the second largest location in the US for furniture making, which makes sense with all the wood that was easily accessible, I guess.
Last but not least, is a 1927 picture of the employees of the furniture company congregated outside their building. I like it a lot, especially the guy halfway up the telegraph pole. It must have been really quite exciting to get your picture taken back then and I love the chaps lying around all casual-like in the foreground. They seem to be laughing at themselves a little, so maybe they were being a bit cheeky, heh heh.
Anyway, it was an interesting little diversion, started by a nice piece of upholstery fabric. I hope you found it mildly interesting too. Bye for now!