|Description: Empire-style sofa with three arches forming the back crest rail. The shaped arm-rests curve outward. The legs are scroll-cut in a modified reversal of the arm-rests. The skirt has an applied 'pie crust' molding across the front. The black hair-cloth upholstery might be original, which is buttoned to the arm-rest and the back of the sofa.
History: According to the dealer, the sofa came from the Orangeville, Ontario area c 1840-1870. Acquired by the Vice-President of The Township of Toronto Historical Foundation. Accessioned in 1967.
Horse hair was preferred for premium upholstered furniture but hair from hogs and from the tails of oxen and cattle was also used for upholstered furniture and mattresses. In 1854, Robert Hay of Jacques and Hay, Toronto, developed a mill and factory in New Lowell. A 'coloured' man, Valentine Spiers, was in charge of the hair factory. George Craig, the machinery expert and chief turner in Toronto, constructed spinning, trimming and edging apparatus for the New Lowell hair factory. Reference: Cathcart, Ruth, _Jacques & Hay 19th Century Toronto Furniture Makers_, 1986.
To the upholsterer, horse-hair, or hair as it is generally known , is the favourite stuffing and as yet there has not been another stuffing to equal it. It is the most resilient of stuffings, the best quality lasting for many years. It may instantly come to the mind that today foam rubber has surely displaced it. But this would not be right to assume. The finest quality upholstered furniture still depends upon the great feel and skill of the craftsman. And it is the judgement very often, when stuffing, to know just how thick or dense to make 'first stuffings' and 'second stuffings' that gives the right firmness and shape. There are a number of qualities of hair, and also different coloured hair. It is washed and sterilized and then spun into rope form. This twists the hair and gives to it the springiness that is its chief attribute. The longer the hair the more twist and resilience. A great proportion of this is dyed black. The rest is left in its natural colour and is known as 'grey hair'. Cheaper grades of hair are of the shorter length and are mixed with hog-hair and others not from horses. The ideal stuffing is an all-hair stuffing but in many jobs hair is used for second stuffing only. Fibres of one sort or another are used for the first stuffings. Reference: www.oldandsold.com/articles05/upholstery5.shtml.