The Chapman Company
First, I would like to thank Peter Lyons for doing continued research on this company. Since my previous introduction to Chapman, Peter has kindly sent me sufficient material to warrant a replacement. I had the wrong Chapman.
Alonzo Page Chapman was a central figure in this story. A boot and shoe merchant during the 1880s in Chicago, he married Nancy Bowen in 1875. After moving to Boston they had a son in 1879, Waldo Ernest Chapman.
Alonzo was employed as a furniture salesman at B. A. Atkinson a furniture Company that ultimately went out of business in 1893. No further information is known of his whereabouts until in 1904, he and William Sears started a retail furniture business as Chapman & Sears, Boston, where they continued until 1907. This business was located at 101 Portland Street, Boston. Just 2 doors down from the future address of The Chapman Company.
The incorporation papers for The Chapman Company, dated January 28th 1907, were sent to me by Peter Lyons and these really told the story of not only how The Chapman Company got started but of its very nature. The Chapman Company was formed by 3 individuals, Arthur W. Ford (President), Frank B. Cyr (treasurer), and R. E. Abbott (Clerk). All 3 are noted as directors. Capitalization was $20,000 yet none of this sum was for in return for any acquired hard assets such as inventory, machinery, premises etc, but simply for trademarks and good will.
The listed activities of the corporation were numerous and general in nature including
"… to act as brokers or fiscal agents in any lawful capacity such as buying, selling, undertaking and liquidating different businesses and enterprises".
However, among the long list of these general undertakings was a very specific one,
"... also to buy, sell and deal in and otherwise dispose of all classes of merchandise incidental and necessary to carry on the business of the manufacture of Mosaic Work, Lamps, Andirons, leaded glass, fixtures, pottery, fire screens and bronze work ...".
A most important statement in the Corporation Papers included:
"We, the undersigned, have no objection in any way to the following name (The Chapman Company) being used as a firm name, association or corporation
Yours very truly,
A.P Chapman, R.E. Abbott."
As previously noted, the corporation was established on January 28th January 1907. Advertising for their leaded lamps started just 2 months later in March of 1907, so this was clearly a company that was engaging an already established lamp maker. There are numerous possible scenarios and additional research is warranted. However, it seems clear that Alonzo’s calling all along was in furniture sales and retail, not lighting manufacture. Records show that as of the 1910 census Alonzo Chapman was a commercial traveler in the lamp shade industry.
Another interesting note includes Waldo Ernest Chapman, Alonzo Chapman's son. He was born in Boston in 1879 but was married to Greta Hughes Rankin during 1906 in Chicago. Waldo Chapman graduated Harvard University in 1903 and according to their records, was last reported as being the president of The Chapman Company in 1907. The 1910 census lists him as a broker in 1910 and by the 1920s had forged a career in the military. .
The Chapman Company was dissolved in 1910. Alonzo went on to work with an additional 3 companies up until the time of his death in 1921, all 3 were in the furniture business.
As of this writing, we still have no evidence pointing to the actual maker of the lamps featured in the Chapman Company advertisements.
Paul Crist kindly sent me the following invaluable magazine advertisements that he discovered in two monthly publications placed under the name of The Chapman Company. These all appeared throughout 1907 and so far, no other mention of the Company has appeared since, except for its disolution in 1910 and one final reference to the company name in a June 1911 listing.
These advertisements would indicate that the Chapman business was already producing quality lighting by 1907 and all of the advertised shades were of a high order, both in terms of complexity and maturity of design. Based on 3 examples that have been positively identified by these advertisements, they were indeed works of good quality.
The example above and below is from Peter Lyons with the Wisteria Model shown in the advert. There are no doubt more to surface and be attributed, or re-attributed to Chapman based on these important advertisements.
The Difficulty Of Attribution
The slippery slope of attribution continues to bring new challenges. Mosaic Shades has already shown that Wilkinson had adopted, 'borrowed', purchased, or even copied certain designs made popular by Duffner & Kimberly, Other similar situations exist, as designers moved from company to company it is only reasonable to assume they may have brought with them some of their designs. While putting this page together, I found several Chapman examples.
1. The first example, that had previously been attributed to Suess at Fontaines Auction of October 2000, lot 82, in which a 24" floor model of the Clematis appeared sporting a documented Suess floor base.
2. A second Clematis example configured for gas appears in American Lighting 1840-1940. From a Boston Consolidated Gas Company pamphlet.
3. The third example of the same clematis, but a 22" version, which appeared at James D. Julia in 2013, also supported by another bronze Suess base, descending leaf pattern.
4. The fourth example, a bent glass leaf style shade that has been on this site for some years, also appears on a Suess Grape base.
5 The fifth example is the Wisteria above, which appears to have the same Chapman base as that in another of the advertisements.
So, 3 of 5 examples identified so far have Suess bases, leading us to wonder if this was more than a coincidence beyond just a common 3" aperture size. Over time it's likely we will know if there was such a connection.
The Chapman Advertisements
The March 1907 advertisement by Chapman identifies it as their Wisteria. While this example and the Clematis below have 3" apertures, the hand drawn illustrations in the adverts appear to show a somewhat smaller diameter.
Clematis - 22" Diameter
Attributed to Suess, understandably because it is mounted on a bronze Suess base. The March 1907 advertisement by Chapman clearly shows an identical pattern. This pattern includes a very distinctive trellis that descends well below the bottom rim of the shade.;
- Image © Fontaines Auction
Fine leaded glass floor lamp. 24" leaded glass shade with floral and foliage decoration with irregular border and violet / white striated glass background. Possibly Suess. Upon its original metal base.
Chapman Clematis from a Pamphlet by Boston Consolidated Gas Company.
© Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1989