Hitchcock, Lambert H.

Hitchcock, Lambert H.

(1795–1852) furniture maker; born in Cheshire, Conn. Starting out making furniture by hand, in 1818 he set up a factory in Barkhamsted, Conn., that would soon employ some 100 workers, turning out the parts for chairs that furniture makers could assemble. (The village was named Hitchcockville but changed its name to Riverton in 1866.) The basic Hitchcock chair (essentially a simplified version of the Windsor chair) was made of simple turned legs, rungs, and back posts (the legs and back being slightly bent); had a broad back rail; usually a rush seat (sometimes cane or wood); and was painted solid black (over a red base) with designs stenciled in gold or colors. As the chairs became popular, in 1825 he greatly expanded his factory space and began to manufacture the completed chairs (as well as other types of furniture). In its own way this was a pioneer effort in the factory/mass production system, but his output got so far ahead of his shipping and sales capacities and his profit per chair was so low that he went bankrupt in 1829. He was rescued by a man who would then marry Hitchcock's sister, and the factory continued for some years. Hitchcock served in the Connecticut state legislature (1840–41). The factory was revived by John T. Kenney as the Hitchcock Chair Company in 1946 to make the chairs and other traditional American furniture.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.