CAST IRON FURNITURE
This furniture was introduced to the American public around 1835
to 1850. The earliest cast-iron furniture was made by foundries specializing in architectural ironwork. Unlike wrought iron, which is heated in a forge and hammered by hand, cast iron is made by pouring molten metal
into molds, a process that makes it easier to create fluid and
intricate shapes and designs. It was logical that the same technology that was already yielding elaborate
columns and fences could also be used to mass-produce furnishings for the home. Individual furniture parts were turned out from molds, then assembled and
bolted together into completed pieces.
The first cast iron furniture in America was made for outdoor use in parks, cemeteries, and gardens. The casting process permitted all manner of organic forms, which made the furniture
particularly suited to the romantic or "picturesque" garden that was popular during much of the
1800s. Designed to blend in with the natural, wild look of these gardens, the chairs,
tables, and settees - usually painted green sprouted iron grapevines, ferns, and
morning-glories. In the same spirit, pieces grew gnarled-root feet and branches in imitation of the rustic
wood furniture that was also in vogue during the Victorian period.
Around 1850, cast iron furniture for indoor use was introduced. The designs imitated those
of wooden furniture in a variety of Victorian styles and the pieces were usually painted black or bronze. One especially popular furnishing for the home was the hat-and-umbrella stand, which, fitted with hooks for hanging coats,
hats, umbrellas, and walking sticks, was placed in the foyer
or hallway. Like cast iron garden pieces, these antique cast iron "hat trees" also featured such appropriate embellishments as branches and leaves, and were often fitted with mirrors.
Because of the durability of cast iron, it is difficult to
recognize genuine antique cast iron from reproductions.