Early 18th Century Flemish Armchair 

Pennsbury Manor Site - Pennsylvania Historic & Museum Commission


Before Treatment: Leather DamagePennsbury Manor is located just north of Philadelphia in Berks County. The property contains the reconstructed country estate of William Penn. The Delaware River flows by the manor house's front door, large trees shade the site, and sheep graze the pastures. The land was rescued from an encroaching gravel quarry in the 1930s; the forty-three acre farm is only a small remnant of the founder's original eight thousand acre estate.


Construction at Pennsbury began soon after William Penn's arrival to the colony in 1682. Penn's plan was to establish a gentleman's country estate that had been like his home in England. In addition to a spacious house, there were also separate buildings for baking and brewing, a large stable, a boathouse, and multiple farm buildings.


Before Treatment: Close Up of the DamageThe leather upholstered walnut chair was found to be in unstable condition. The chair frame was sound but the leather upholstery covering was torn in several locations. There were irregular, complex tears along the bottom edge and vertically along the proper left side of the seat back where the leather is wrapped and tacked to the wooden frame. The leather, while retaining a moderate degree of flexibility, was found to be cracked overall. The original decorative textile trim had been replaced with a later mid-nineteenth century embossed leather strip. The presentation surfaces of the leather panels were decorated with painted and gilt designs; somewhat obscured by previously applied leather “dressings” and wear.


After Treatment: Flemish Leather Chair on ExhibitThe leather upholstery was removed from the chair and a small section of the deteriorated 19th century embossed leather trim, nailed along the outer edges, was retained in the museum's archives. The reverse or flesh side of the leather was thoroughly vacuumed and the edges along the tears were consolidated using a reversible synthetic resin. The torn edges were aligned and secured using sutures made from a non-woven polyester fabric, flock sprayed with a reversible heat set adhesive.


The flesh side of the leather was fully lined using the polyester fabric and heat set adhesive tissue to reinforce the cracked and weakened leather. The original under upholstery or “stuffing” was retained and encapsulated in a polyester envelope which was then secured between the original rear panel and the conserved leather upholstery covering. The leather was then reattached to the wooden frame using a heat set adhesive rather than tacks, as originally installed.


Period illustrations and paintings frequently depict this type of chair, trimmed with textile pasting lace and tassels. Examination of several original tacks revealed a fragment of textile under the head of the tacks suggesting that the Pennsbury chair had also been finished with such a trim. Upon consultation with the curatorial staff, a modern fringe was purchased and again adhered (rather than nailed into the frame) to the perimeter edges of the chair.

  • Contact Us

  • B.R. Howard & Associates

  • Phone: 1.888.264.2959
    Fax: 717.200.2537
    Email: office@brhoward.com