Mathews Campeachy chair still on loan to Thomas Jefferson Foundation
Mathews residents Steve Whiteway, Dennis Baker, Art Miller and Daniel Webster traveled to Charlottesville on July 23 as guests of the foundation to tour Monticello and to have a special viewing of the chair, which is at the historic site for the purpose of research.
Discovered with a broken arm on the dusty second floor of the historic courthouse in 1975, the Mathews County Campeachy chair sat virtually unnoticed until 1998, when curators from Monticello visited the county to examine it. At that time, Circuit Court clerk Eugene Callis gave the foundation’s representatives permission to take the chair for three months to determine if it were an authentic early-19th century Campeachy chair built by Monticello’s slave cabinetmakers.
Three years later, with the chair still at Monticello, curator Susan R. Stein contacted Callis and asked that the county sell or donate the piece to the foundation or allow the foundation to keep it on long-term loan. She explained that the foundation was trying to bring back all of the Campeachy chairs that originated at Monticello.
The foundation’s conservator of architecture and furniture, Robert Self, had determined that Mathews County’s chair shared several features with the ones known to have been made at Monticello, although there were some differences, such as in the types of joints used and the overall proportions of the chairs. Self said that the chair could have been made at Monticello, or it could have been a copy made by someone who saw one there.