Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary .


The stems of certain palms, grasses, or plants like bamboo and rattan, plaited or woven into a mesh which is yielding, and therefore comfortable to sit or lean back against.

Cane was used as a decorative and elegant seating and chair-back material in the Louis XIII, XIV and XVI periods in France, and in the 17th and 18th centuries in Holland, England and America.

From the Latin for reed.

Reprinted from
Edgar G. Miller, Jr., American Antique Furniture, 1937, Vols. 1 & 2

They are called "cane chairs" because the seat and a portion of the back were made of cane, this being their distinctive feature; but of equal interest in the fine specimens is the elaborate carving and turning of many parts of the chair. In most cases the original cane has been broken and new cane or even upholstery or leather has been substituted... in fact it is very seldom that a chair of this kind is found in its original condition.

They came to our country from England about 1690-1700 and some of them were the models from which the American pieces were made. Many of the English types were too elegant and expensive for general use in our colonies; and only the plainer kinds were apparently made here to any extent.

They are sometimes called "Charles the Second" chairs because they became the fashion in England in his reign, which was from 1660 to 1685. In our country they appear to have been popular until about 1720.

[Cane chairs], with their high backs, were very effective when standing as ornamental pieces against the wall; but they were not comfortable and were apt to give way when the occupant leaned heavily against the back.

The imported English chairs were generally made of walnut or beech wood. The finer American pieces were usually of some kind of fruit wood; the plainer pieces were often made of maple and were frequently painted black.


Photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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