News & Views
Photo of Sandwich Village by Joe Janis
Tappan Chairs are a New Hampshire ladder-back design first crafted in Sandwich, NH in the early 1800s. They continue to be crafted in Sandwich to this day. Seven generations of makers, using a medley of modern and historic machinery dating as far back as the 1850s, have contributed to the story of this historic business.
A Brief History
The first Tappan Chair was crafted by Abraham Tappan in the year 1819. Abraham was a resident of Sandwich his entire life, having been among the first settlers of the town in 1768. Abraham’s son Daniel, along with his wife Rhoda, raised 15 children in Sandwich as well, and each had a hand in the chairmaking business. Sons Walter and Winthrop continued the business after Daniel’s passing in the 1880s, and rather than end the family tradition when he retired in the 1930s, Walter chose instead to sell the business to Doc Quinby and Al Hoag, who continued the trade for two decades in affiliation with the Sandwich Home Industries—the original incarnation of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
The business changed hands in the 1940s, passing to Sandwich resident Cy Blumberg after his return from WWII. Cy made other furniture, and even cut hair, alongside his chair work. When Cy passed away in the 1960s, Tappan Chairs nearly vanished as a business when his estate went to auction. But rather than letting the equipment and patterns be parted out, again a Sandwich resident intervened, purchased the lot, and stored the business until Gunnar Berg, a Sandwich cabinetmaker, discovered it and brought it back to life in the 1980s, becoming the first maker to establish a national market for the chairs.
In 2013, coinciding with Sandwich’s 250th anniversary, Gunnar continued the tradition of passing on the business to yet another Sandwich resident, Adam Nudd-Homeyer, making him the seventh generation in Tappan Chairs’ line of craftsperson-stewards. It is under Adam’s tenure that Tappan Chairs now celebrates its 200th anniversary—a celebration which had an early start in 2018, with Tappan Chairs’ move into the former, historic, and long vacant Sandwich General Store building, turning it into an open workshop, showroom, and history exhibit, and marking the first time in the business’s long history that it has had its own free-standing building.
Under its current ownership, the business launched a successful 2014 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign which was designated a Kickstarter global “Project of the Day.” On the heels of that effort, Tappan Chairs developed a national markeng partnership with Chilton Furniture of Maine, and through that connection Adam became introduced to the last living Shakers who reside in Sabbathday Lake, ME. As a result of that introduction, Tappan Chairs has become the only commissioned chairmaker in the world for the living Shaker Community, and crafts a number of models on their behalf annually.
Adam has also continued a tradition begun over previous generations—that of using Tappan Chairs to help raise money for a number of local, regional, and national nonprofits. Since 2013 alone, donations of Tappan Chairs have raised over $50,000.
Bicentennial Events and Celebratory Activities
With the beginning of 2019, Adam is announcing a number of celebratory activities for this important year, the first one being the most significant. In celebration of the generations of townspeople who have supported and nurtured the business, making it what it is today, Tappan Chairs is donating 10% of all retail chair sales this year to be divided among the Sandwich Historical Society, Sandwich Home Industries, and Sandwich Children’s Center, thereby celebrating the stewards of the “History, Heritage, and Future” of Tappan Chairs in town.
Adam also intends to use this occasion to challenge other businesses in the community to match Tappan Chairs’ contributions this year, so that together they can contribute to as many important cultural and social nonprofits and charities which serve the town and its population as possible.
As the year progresses, many more events lie in store. Tappan Chairs is currently seeking a formal celebratory proclamation from the Governor of NH, and has invited him to attend the official “Tappan Chairs Birthday Celebration” on August 3 in Sandwich, kicking off Sandwich’s renowned Old Home Week.
Also in store is the publication of a “Spotter’s Guide to Tappan Chairs,” the expansion of the museum exhibit to feature biographies and photos from the many generations of Tappan Chair makers and their helpers, as well as historic chair examples and patterns from the different periods of their manufacture. Finally, Tappan Chairs looks to release an all-new chair design to symbolize and and celebrate its many generations of makers.
We at Tappan Chairs not only invite you to join us in this special year, but encourage you to help us share this special story of what we have become, which deepens with every year!
For further inquiry and information, please contact:
Adam Nudd-Homeyer, owner-steward and craftsperson
Tappan Chairs, LLC
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