The shied back shape of this chair splat is a hallmark of chairs from the Federal period. This chair is stamped “WF” for its maker, William Fiske. Very little is known of William Fiske besides the locales in which he worked; it is believed that he begun his career in cabinetmaking in Salem then moved to Roxbury or Boston.
Yet perhaps more noteworthy than the chair’s maker is its alleged former owner, John Hancock. According to legend, the contents of the famous patriot’s Beacon Street mansion were auctioned off in intervals between Hancock’s death in 1793 and the destruction of the home in 1863. Antiquarians have since used newspaper advertisements listing the items to verify the provenance of pieces believed to have a Hancock provenance. The shield-back chair in the Otis parlor is believed to have bought in one of the 1860s auction and stereo views circa 1860 may contain the chair.
William Fiske (1770-1844), attributed maker
Boston or Salem, 1788-1793
Mahogany chestnut, maple, satinwood