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Trombone Chair

Maker Unknown
Place Made:
Could have been made in one of the Moravian towns in Pennsylvania (Bethlehem or Lancaster?) Salem North Carolina
Date Made:
wood, paint
__HOA 45 1/8″ __ __WOA 19 7/8″ __DOA 20″ __ __Seat Height is 29 1/2″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Green painted arrow-back windor chair with high legs and footrest; the seat height of this chair is 29 1/2″ (average for a regular windsor is 17-18″). Painted dark green overall with black and gold accents (now darkened); crest rail outlined in black; arrows outlined in black with black (?) free hand leaf-like pendants painted near the top of each arrow. clusters of three ring turnings accent the seat back posts, the front stretcher just above the foot rest and the front legs. Although aging of the finish makes it difficult to see, it appears as though turnings on the seat back posts may have been painted a darker accent color. The footrest is supported by two shaped pieces of wood mortised into the front legs; seat back posts are mortised and wedged.

On the bottom of the chair is a paper tag that says
“Robert DeSchweintz’s chair 1855”. There is also a metal Salem academy & College inventory tag on the chair.

Within Moravian culture, this type of chair is referred to as a trombone chair. Music was a very important part of Moravian culture and education. As Wendy Cooper and Lisa Minardi explain in in PAINT, PATTERN, AND PEOPLE: FURNITURE OF SOUTHEASTERN PENNSYLVANIA 1725-1850, “To fascilitate the playing of trombones, the Moravians developed a special type of windsor chair with legs several inches taller than usual, enabling the sitter to play the instrument without it hitting the floor.” (Cooper and Minardi 2011:48-49)

It’s possible that Robert de Schweinitz brought this chair with him from Bethlehem when he became inspector of the Salem Girls’ Boarding School ihn 1853 or he may have purchased the chair here in Salem.

HISTORY: Robert William deSchweinitz (1819-1901) was the son of Reverend Ludwig (Lewis) deSchweinitz and his wife Louisa Amalia LeDoux deSchweinitz. Born in Salem, Robert moved with his family to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1821. Robert entered Nazareth Hall in 1830 and later attended the Moravian Theological Seminary. After Seminary, Robert taught at Nazareth Hall for six years before going to Europe where he met and married his wife, Marie Louise von Tschirschky, in 1846. The couple eventually had six children: Helen (1847-1930), Lewis/Louis (1849-1931), Clara (1853-1938), Bertha (1856-1893), Paul (1863-1940), and Robert (1866-1954). After their return to America, deSchweinitz taught at the Moravian Theological Seminary beginning in 1847. He served briefly as pastor in the Moravian community of Graceham, Maryland, and then Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In February 1853 he replaced his brother, Emil, as Inspector (or principal) of the Salem Girls Boarding School. It was during his tenure as inspector that Main Hall was constructed and the “pleasure grounds” or “playgrounds” were laid out. He also oversaw school operations during the Civil War. In 1866 he accepted the principalship of Nazareth Hall, but was elected president of the Provincial Elders’ Conference in 1867. Although his wife died in 1881, he continued to serve the Church in various capacities until 1899 when failing health forced his retirement. He died in 1901.
Credit Line:
Ane P. and Thomas A. Gray Moravian Decorative Arts Purchase Fund