TREATMENT OF AN AMERICAN 19TH-CENTURY UPHOLSTERED CHAIR
CECELIA CHEWNING, & HAROLD F. MAILAND
1 HISTORY OF MITCHELL AND RAMMELSBERG
In 1986 the Cincinnati Art Museum purchased a sofa, armchair, and four side chairs from a Marion, Ohio, couple. This furniture was made by Mitchell and Rammelsberg, Cincinnati's premier 19th century furniture manufacturer (Peirce 1978). The company was founded in 1847 and grew rapidly to become the city's largest furniture maker. It was among the first in Cincinnati to adopt steam-powered machines. Its early success resulted in the opening of branch stores in St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. By the 1870s the Cincinnati business included a vast factory complex and an impressive six-story retail building in the city's fashionable Fourth Street retail district. The company continued in business until the 1930s, though it was called the Robert Mitchell Furniture Co. after 1881.
In its 1879 catalog, Household Art: An Illustrated Business Brochure, Mitchell and Rammelsberg advertised a wide range of styles, including Renaissance, Louis XVI, Queen Anne, Japanese, Egyptian, Grecian and neo-Grec, Adams, and Eastlake (Mitchell and Rammelsberg 1879). The company sold furnishings for private residences, hotels, banks, stores, offices, churches, and schools. It stocked not only its own line of furniture, but furniture, fabrics, and decorative accessories made by other U.S. companies and imported from abroad. It is important to remember that the company sold many more items than it made. The 1879 catalog boasted that “every resource is taxed to meet the wants of all buyers, from the most fastidious and lavish to the most economical.” The bywords of the company appeared on the cover: art, durability, grace, economy, elegance. Since Mitchell and Rammelsberg was in business for more than 80 years, many of the company's wares must be extant throughout the Midwest and South as anonymous heirlooms.