What do innovation and wedding gifts have in common?

I know, brides are thinking, “What does a chair have to do with weddings?” That photo is a chair featured in The Henry Ford’s March 2008 Pic of the Month

There’s a story behind that.

I have an upcoming bridal shower and wedding to shop for, and the items on the couple’s registry are pretty much claimed. I like giving creative gifts that are special, useful and enjoyed for years. I often default to monetary gifts, but that all depends on how well I know the happy couple.

I recently shared my gift-giving dilemma with my sister. We talked about treasured wedding gifts that we received – practical items, those never used, those most used, and some of the favorite gifts we like to give as wedding guests.

We contemplated what we would register for now – knowing what we know – if we were to do it all over again.

Then, my sister pointed out I was sitting on what has become one of her most treasured gifts: a Hitchcock Chair Company Bridal Anniversary Chair.

Hitchcock Bridal Chair -- 1988

When she received that chair as a gift, it did not fit in at all with her design aesthetic and 1980s home décor plans. Although she appreciated the careful craftsmanship and personalization of the chair – it has her maiden name, her husband’s name and their wedding date hand stenciled on the back – I’m pretty sure she thought, “What am I supposed to do with this?” Okay, I know that’s exactly what she thought.

Now, almost 30 years later, that lovely little chair has been a treasured reminder of that happy day.

It found a home for years in their master bedroom, then in the corner of the dining room, and now it’s conveniently tucked near the front entry. The chair has always seemed to be just right, even with my sister’s funky and eclectic style. My brother and his wife received a similar chair from the same wedding guests. They equally treasure theirs, which is right at home with their mix of traditional and antiques. (And yes, as I write this, I’m thinking, “Darn it. I wish my husband and I had a chair to treasure.” Of course –  not that I don’t still just love that gorgeous Waterford lamp we received instead … )

Hitchcock Chair Company Advertisement

The chair is timeless. In addition to being attractive and useful, it’s a great example of American style and innovation. I was struck by how much the chairs my siblings have resemble the one in the collections at The Henry Ford.

The basic design originated in the early 1800s in Connecticut by Lambert Hitchcock who used a machine process to make interchangeable chair parts and produce affordable quality furniture. He was innovative in his manufacturing techniques through his integrated work processes, use of women and children as finishers, and application of fast and inexpensive, yet still attractive, decorative techniques. You can read more about it here.

Although Lambert Hitchcock died in 1852 at 57, his chairs, and copies of the them, are still sought after.

Hitchcock Bridal Chair back

My sister will be the first to admit that her 1980s décor (and hair) has come and gone, but that little Hitchcock bridal chair (like her marriage) has proven to stand the test of time.

Hitchcock Chair company -- Bridal Chair today

Current Hitchcock Bridal Anniversary Chair

The Hitchcock Chair Company continues to make hand-stenciled furniture, including customized bridal/anniversary chairs in the United States in the same tradition, from the same plans, and in same town as Lambert Hitchcock.

And, of course, The Henry Ford continues to host fabulous weddings with memories to cherish for a lifetime.

What kind of personalized wedding gifts do you enjoy giving or would you like to receive? Do you know anyone who received a Hitchcock chair (or any other personalize furniture) as a gift?

Kristine Hass is a long-time member and frequent blogger for The Henry Ford.