Memories and stories are important part of family history. Early memories, under 6 years old, tend to be sketchy at best. However there are some thoughts of childhood that do resonant through artifacts or belongings that bring up feelings and jar memories of ancestors. One of those recent belongings that was part of my childhood memory is a chair that my paternal grandmother had in her house. This chair was situated on the front porch of the home and was used by my Grandmother in the last years of her life. My grandmother died when I was 6, so my memories of her are limited but with pictures and this particular chair I remember being 4 and 5 years old visiting her and being on the porch sitting with her in this chair (pictured below). I still remember her hands resting around my waist holding me as she rocked the chair slowly while my parents and uncle were in deep conversation about the recent news items in the town or world of the late 1960s. My father was the youngest of 12 children and by the time I was born my grandmother was a widow and just turned 77 yrs. old. So my recollections of her is a person who loved children, moved slowly and had a kind smile when she felt healthy.
After my grandmother died, the chair stayed on the front porch in about the same place for the next 40 plus years. I sat in the chair many more times throughout the years my uncle lived in the house and my family visited there. Eventually the house it was in was sold to a new family in about 2014. Before this family moved in I removed my Grandma’s chair from the porch and brought back to my own house and put it in storage. The chair was not in the best condition even then and was by my estimate over 70 yrs. old. The condition of the chair deteriorated and eventually became a home for mice while in storage. Originally I kept this chair intending to get it reupholstered to use again. Well after holding on to it too long and deciding that the value of reuse was less important than the memory of my Grandma and my time with her, I decided to simply take a picture and let the chair go to the dump. The memories of being with her in the chair are more important. It was her chair not mine.
However before letting the chair go, I did some research to learn the possible age and also who might have made this chair my grandmother enjoyed relaxing in.
As I started to take pictures and looking closer at the chair, I saw a tag with words, in caps DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG under Penalty of Law. Also the tag says the chair was made of “all new material” (at the time of course); consisting of “Body: Cotton Linter Felt, Rubberized Sisal Pad and Wood Fibre Pad”. “This article is made in compliance with an Act of District of Columbia approved July 3, 1926; Kansas, approved March 1923: Minnesota, approved April 23, 1929: New Jersey, revised statues 26 :10-6 to 18.”
I did some research and found some interesting comments about what this Act of District of Columbia was in the 1926.
In the Library of Congress on-line search I came across: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/69th-congress.php
|Chapter 768||An Act To regulate the manufacture, renovation, and sale of mattresses in the District of Columbia.||July 3, 1926|
A PDF file of this chapter can be opened and on pages 838-840 you see that the major concern of Public Law 489 of the 69th Congress, otherwise known as the mattress law, was the spread of contagious venereal disease: “. . . no person in the District of Columbia who is a renovator of mattresses shall use in whole or in part, in the renovation of any mattress, material which has formed part of any mattress theretofore used in and about any sanitarium or hospital, or used by any individual having an infectious or contagious disease.” According to the act, secondhand material could not be used in mattress like furniture unless it had been sterilized and disinfected.
I learned a little social and medical history about the U.S. from this chair of nearly 100 years old. However I was also interested in the manufacturer of the chair, Kroehler MFG. Co. So I looked up the maker of this chair and discovered a link to the Encyclopedia of Chicago (http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/2745.html). It states, “In 1902, Peter E. Kroehler bought the Naperville Lounge Co., a maker of wooden lounge chairs and upholstered furniture. Kroehler built a new factory in Naperville in 1913 after the original facility was destroyed by a tornado. Soon thereafter, he renamed the company Kroehler Manufacturing Co.” Also I did a search of Peter Kroehler and found more at the Naperville Museum. More on the Mr. Kroehler can be found at https://www.napersettlement.org/295/Kroehler-Manufacturing-Collection
In your genealogy research do not forget that you may have artifacts that not only provide memories and develop stories, but you also can learn something about the social history of the past, that also informs us who live today.
Happy research and Family History Month.