Pair of Plail Brothers Barrel Back Chairs

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Plail Brothers Chair Company
  • Category: Mission Oak Furniture
  • Origin: The Arts and Crafts Movement
  • Medium: Quarter Sawn Oak - price is for the pair
  • Size: 33" tall x 25" wide x 19" deep
  • Item # 24031
  • Price: $9,500.00

This pair of Plail Brothers Barrel Back Chairs from the Arts and Crafts Period contains one rocking chair and one straight chair.  They are circa 1911.

The Arts and Crafts movement was an international movement in the decorative and fine arts that flourished in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1910, emerging in Japan in the 1920s. Its artistic and social influences were strongly felt in Europe until it was displaced by Modernism in the 1930s and continued among some craft makers, designers, town planners and others long afterwards.  

Plail Brothers made a 3-piece parlor set that included these two chairs and a two-seater settle. We do not have the settle. The spindles go almost to the floor and both chairs have drop-in leather-covered seats. Each chair originally had a paper label. Only a partial paper label remains on one chair and it reads “PLAIL Wayland.” The remainder of the label is missing. The label on the rocking chair is missing although it is obvious where it was once located. These are most unusual and very rare.

John and Joe Plail worked for the Binghamton Chair Co. in Binghamton, N.Y., before they and some other Binghamton Chair employees left and founded the W.H. Gunlocke Chair Co. in 1902. Within a few years, John and his brother Joseph left Gunlocke to start their own company, Plail Brothers Chair Co., in Wayland, NY.  The company is best known today for its chairs and settees, many with slatted barrel backs (straight slats inserted in a back slightly rounded at the corners). 

While they did make a limited line of general Arts and Crafts furniture, their trademark examples were slatted barrel-back chairs and settees with unique flared back feet. In addition to selecting highly-figured quarter sawn oak for their framework, the brothers designed their settees and chairs with slats reaching nearly to the floor. According to authors Michael Clark and Jill Thomas-Clark, the first advertisement for their barrel-back chairs appeared in 1911. Their Arts and Crafts furniture was marked with a fragile rectangular blue paper label containing “Plail Bros.” and “Wayland, NY.”

Just three years later, in 1914, at the height of their success, the Plail Brothers factory burned down. The brothers were able to rebuild it, however, and reopened a year later, at which time the firm shifted from Arts and Crafts to English-influenced designs.


Condition: Both chairs appear to have the original finish but both seats have been re-upholstered.

Provenance: from the collection of a gentleman from Santa Fe

Recommended Reading: Mission Furniture: Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement by Paul Royka

Alternate view of this pair of chairs.

Plail Brothers Chair Company
  • Category: Mission Oak Furniture
  • Origin: The Arts and Crafts Movement
  • Medium: Quarter Sawn Oak - price is for the pair
  • Size: 33" tall x 25" wide x 19" deep
  • Item # 24031
  • Price: $9,500.00

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