Library armchair, 1750-1775
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Photo courtesy of University Archives and Columbiana Library, Columbia University

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"Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World," Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary traveling exhibition, 2005-2008
Related Publications

Talbott, Page, ed., Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World (New Haven and London: Yale University, 2005) (companion book to exhibition of same title)

The chair was given to Dr. David Hosack, a student of Dr. Benjamin Rush, by Catherine Wistar (Mrs. William) Bache. She died in 1821, her husband having pre-deceased her. William Bache's inventory, dated October 17, 1814, includes several entries that could refer to this chair, but none are described as "Dr. Franklin's chair." Mrs. Bache makes a few specific bequests in her will, but none of furniture, which leads to the supposition that she gave the chair away in the period after her husband's death. Hosack placed it with the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York, probably in 1822, from whence it came to Columbia, probably when the society was disbanded. The brass plaque dated 1822, which contains a summary of the chair's pedigree, and cites Catherine Bache as a granddaughter of Franklin's. That is not entirely accurate: she was the widow of a grandson of BF's. David Hosack (1769-1835) studied both at Columbia and at Princeton, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1789 from the latter. He studied medicine in Philadelphia with Dr. Benjamin Rush, then went to Edinburgh to study medicine and botany, and to London to study mineralogy. He taught botany and materia medica at Columbia, the theory and practice of physic (medicine) at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and formed a noted botanical garden in New York. He was the first President of The New-York Historical Society, and several works of art now part of its collections came to it through him. Hosack's learning and social activities led him to be considered one of New York's most enlightened citizens during his lifetime. A 1941 article from The American Collector, vol. X, No. 2, March 1941, by Waldo Hopkins gives the chair's history in brief, and illustrates it with a pillow on its seat. Terms of Use Credits