The Chapman Company

Chapman Wisteria
© Peter Lyons 2013 All Rights Reserved.
Over time, the name Chapman as a leaded shade maker has been mentioned. The first documented instance, that I am aware of, is on page 23 of Mosaic Shades, so my interest was to see what information existed with a view to placing at least a few of the countless number of un attributed lamps, firmly in the Chapman camp. What little I have here revolves around its principal, believed to be John Neal Chapman, alas, not the company itself. Sources included Ancestry and other internet sites. So this page is a placeholder, a work in progress.

John Neal Chapman, was born in 1829. Although his place of birth was Meredith, Belknap in New Hampshire, his first job was to begin with employment at Jones, Ball & Poor, jewelers, in Boston, Massachusetts. He started this career, presumably, in jewelry at the age of 16 but certainly served as an apprentice.

In the mid 1850s, he went to work at Bigelow & Kennard, jewelers, Boston. many decades prior to the Bigelow company starting its leaded lamp line of business.

Years later in 1855, after marrying a Hanna Dana, he started his own company and shop, Bailey, Kettle and Chapman, another jewelry business. A year later, Hanna produced their first daughter Helen and subsequently 4 more children were born. Bailey, Kettle and Chapman was dissolved in 1857 and Chapman got into the glassware business, starting his own Company. This business apparently ran for many years, however we cannot yet tie this business to the name The Chapman Company.

As Chapman passed away in 1896, he clearly was not the one responsible for the range of leaded lamps. A son, John Francis Chapman was in a different state and different industry, a second son, Joseph Chapman was also working elsewhere and passed away young. Luther Dana Chapman also chose a different career which poses the question just who carried the Chapman name into the 1900s.

There is a listing in a 1905 Boston directory for John N. Chapman, having his industry listed as Glassware, so despite the date being 9 years after his death, it is more likely to be an ongoing business listing in his name.

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 one final occurrence of the company 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 - Suess & Chapman

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 Consolidate 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 has a base of unknown origin.

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

Home and Garden, March 1907 - Wisteria
Home and Garden, August 1907
Home and Garden, July 1907
Home and Garden, May 1907
Home and Garden, September 1907 - Hop Vine
Home and Garden, June 1907 - Clematis
Indoors and Out, December 1907
Indoors and Out, September 1907 - Poinsettia

Chapman Wisteria

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.

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  • 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.