This is a Set of 3 Mid 19C Shaker Pioneer Ladderback Chairs from circa 1840-60.

The set of 3 ladderback side chairs are not identical or matching. This is not unusual, as each were fully hand-crafted and each one is unique.

The 3 chairs have been together since being made and were kept in the same family collection for generations.

The chairs on the extreme left and right in the main photo are matching with a circular decoration on the tallest ladderback. They both appear to be made of pitch pine.

The chair in the center appears to be made of elm.

In ORIGINAL CONDITION …. untouched …. natural wear and tear and in good condition considering their age, woods, construction and historical use.

These would have belonged to an early settler in the drive Westward across the US Continent by way of Wagon Train to settle new lands.

They were very functional pieces of furniture.

Diminutive in size but not to be confused with children’s furniture.

There were made to (1) easily fit in a Wagon whilst travelling West (2) could then be used as functional piece of furniture around the homestead, once settled and (3) people were much smaller in the mid-19th Century.

They were probably made in or around the Ohio Valley Area by the ‘Shakers’ who were renowned for making these types of pieces.

Wagon traincaravan of wagons organized by settlers in the United States for emigration to the West during the late 18th and most of the 19th centuries. Composed of up to 100 Conestoga wagons (sometimes called prairie schooners), wagon trains soon became the prevailing mode of long-distance overland transportation for both people and goods. Wagon-train transportation moved westward with the advancing frontier. The 19th century saw the development of such famous roads as the Santa Fe Trail, the Oregon Trail, the Smoky Hill Trail, and the Southern Overland Mail route. It was, however, in transit westward over the Oregon-California Trail that the wagon trains attained their most highly organized and institutionalized character. Meeting in early spring at a rendezvous town, perhaps near the Missouri River, the groups would form companies, elect officers, employ guides, and collect essential supplies while awaiting favourable weather, usually in May. Those riding in the wagons were directed and protected by a few on horseback. Once organized and on their way, wagon-train companies tended to follow a fairly fixed daily routine, from 4 am rising, to 7 am leaving, 4 pm encampment, cooking and tending to chores while the animals grazed, and simple recreation before early retirement. The companies had to be prepared for such challenges as crossing rivers and mountains and meeting hostile Indians.

Wagon-train migrations are more widely known and written about than wagon freighting, which also played an essential role in an expanding America. Teamsters, best known as bullwhackers or muleskinners, conducted commercial operations on a more or less fixed two-way schedule until replaced by the railroad and the truck.

The covered wagon was long the dominant form of transport in pre-industrial America. With roots in the heavy Conestoga wagon developed for the rough, undeveloped roads and paths of the colonial East, the covered wagon spread west with American migration. Heavily relied upon along such travel routes as the Great Wagon Road and the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails, it carried settlers seeking land, gold, and new futures ever further west.

With its ubiquitous exposure in 20th century media, the covered wagon grew to become an icon of the American West. The fanciful nickname Prairie Schooner and romantic depiction in wagon trains only served to embellish the legend.

In Colonial times the Conestoga wagon was popular for migration southward through the Great Appalachian Valley along the Great Wagon Road. After the American Revolution it was used to open up commerce to Pittsburgh and Ohio. The Conestoga, often in long wagon trains, was the primary overland cargo vehicle over the Appalachian Mountains until the development of the railroad. The wagon was pulled by a team of up to eight horses or up to a dozen oxen. For this purpose, the Conestoga horse, a special breed of medium to heavy draft horses, was developed.

Once breached, the moderate terrain and fertile land between the Appalachians and the Mississippi was rapidly settled. In the mid-nineteenth century thousands of Americans took a wide variety of farm wagons across the Great Plains from developed parts of the Midwest to places in the West such as California, Oregon, Colorado, and Montana. Overland migrants typically fitted any sturdy wagon with five or six wooden or metal bows that arched high over the bed. Over this was stretched canvas or similar sturdy cloth, creating the distinctive covered wagon silhouette.

Covered wagons were primarily used to transport cargo, as well as small children, elderly, and the infirm. Lacking suspensions, their rides were rough even over good ground, all but unbearable over rough. Those who could, walked.

While covered wagons traveling short distances on good roads could be drawn by horses, those crossing the plains were usually pulled by a team of two or more pairs of oxen. These were driven by a teamster or drover, who walked at the left side of the team and directed the oxen with verbal commands and whipcracks. Mules were also used, harnessed and controlled from the wagon with reins.

One covered wagon generally carried the belongings of five people. A well-to-do family might have two or three, or a group of single men traveling together might share one. While crossing the plains, emigrants banded together to form wagon trains for mutual assistance and occasionally defense (the latter purpose and associated formation giving rise to the still-used idiom “circle [or ‘circled’ or ‘circling’] the wagons”).

Prairie schooner is a fanciful name for the covered wagon drawing on their broad white canvas covers, romantically envisioned as the sails of a ship crossing the sea.


Shaker furniture is a distinctive style of furniture developed by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as Shakers, a religious sect that had guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Their beliefs were reflected in the well-made furniture of minimalist designs.

Furniture was made thoughtfully, with functional form and proportion. Rather than using ornamentation—such as inlayscarvings, metal pulls, or veneers—which was seen as prideful or deceitful, they developed “creative solutions such as asymmetrical drawer arrangements and multipurpose forms to add visual interest.” Furniture was made of cherry, maple or pine lumber, which was generally stained or painted with one of the colors which were dictated by the sect, typically blue, red, yellow or green. Drawer pulls for dressers or other furniture were made of wood.

A core business for the New Lebanon Shaker community by the 1860s was the production of well-made “ladder” back or turned post chairs. The minimalist design and woven seats were fast and easy to produce. Furniture built and used by the New Lebanon “believers” is exhibited in the Shaker Retiring Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which originated from the North Family Shakers’ 1818 First Dwelling House. The furniture, acquired in the 1970s, and Shaker textiles are considered among the finest Shaker collections in the world.

Many examples of Shaker furniture survive and are preserved today, including such popular forms as Shaker tables, chairs, rocking chairs (made in several sizes), and cabinets, which are said to have Shaker doors, known for being flat paneled with rail frames. Collections of Shaker furniture are maintained by many art and historical museums in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in numerous private collections including the Shaker tilting chair. The underlying principles of Shaker design have given inspiration to some of the finest designers of modern furniture. Shaker ladder back chairs, for instance, deeply influenced the work of an entire generation of postwar Danish designers. Also many ideals of furniture formed around the common Shaker furniture construction.




Set of 3 Mid 19C Shaker Pioneer Ladderback Chairs.

Provenance: Part of a Dallas Private Collection .

Dimensions: The matching pair (left & right) are each 36 in Tall, 17.25 in Wide and 14.25 in Deep and Seat height 15.5 in.

The center chair is 33.5 in Tall, 18.5 in wide and 14.75 in deep and a seat height of 16 in.

Condition: Good original condition, untouched. Wear from age and use is obvious from pics.



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