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The Children's Museum's Furniture Collection Top 5

By Christian G. Carron, Director of Collections

The popular PBS TV series Antiques Roadshow has rolled into Indy with their “Roadshow Furniture Roundup,” and collectors across the state are excited. This got me thinking about the fascinating pieces of furniture in the collections of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and the stories they have to tell. So in honor of this event, I offer you my Children's Museum furniture “Top Five” list...

5. Lincoln Rocker

Some chairs were made famous by the people who used them. While many places claim that “Lincoln slept here”, The Children’s Museum owns a chair in which he loved to sit. Tradition says that this plain looking slat-back rocking chair was a favorite of a young itinerant lawyer named Abraham Lincoln when he stayed at Kelley Tavern in St. Joseph, Illinois, on frequent trips across the state in the decade before he became president. 

4. Shoo-fly Chair

A special mechanical chair in The Children’s Museum collection demonstrates that the right inventor could turn a utilitarian piece of furniture into an ingenious device. Known as a “shoofly chair”, it has a built-in foot treadle underneath the seat that connects to a pole holding a square of fabric above the sitter’s head. When the treadle was pumped, the flap fanned the air, cooling the user and keeping away pesky flying insects. Check out this photo of a shoo-fly chair in action!

3. Old Hickory Armchair

Hoosiers have contributed distinctive designs to the country’s antique furniture heritage, including the rustic cottage and porch chairs made by the Old Hickory Furniture Co. of Martinsville, Indiana. Sold through furniture dealers and mail order catalogs from the 1890s until World War I, they feature thick bark-covered arms and legs and woven bark seats. Not only is one included in The Children’s Museum’s collections; but they were also chosen as the original furnishings in Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Lodge!

2. Wooton Desk

Perhaps the most iconic pieces of Indiana furniture are the elaborate Victorian secretary desks manufactured in Indianapolis by William S. Wooton. These beautiful walnut veneered pieces feature dozens of drawers and cubbies for filing papers and office supplies, and were used by such 19th century notables as President Ulysses S. Grant and businessman John D. Rockefeller. Santa Claus uses The Children’s Museum’s Wooton Desk for writing his gift list in the annual Jolly Days exhibit. 

1. Lip Sofa

The Children’s Museum collections contain a lot of popular culture artifacts, and none represent the category better than our Red Bocca “Lip Sofa” by Gufram, said to be inspired by movie star Marilyn Monroe’s lips. Now considered a classic example of 20th century pop art and biomorphic design, it is accompanied in the collection by an oversized and stuffed “Joe Chair” (a giant interpretation of Joe DiMaggio’s baseball glove).

Do you have a memory of a unique piece of furniture from your family? 

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Categories: Collections
About the Author
Lori Byrd-McDevitt
Lori Byrd-McDevitt
Lori is the Manager of Digital Content and Social Media. That means that she's the face behind all of the museum's social media channels! Lori loves to learn about all of the fun and surprising things that go into making The Children's Museum so extraordinary—then she helps museum staff and community members share it all right here on the blog.
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