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Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport -- Collection I

Description

This collection documents the work of A. H. Davenport Co. (1880-1914), Irving and Casson (1884-1914), and their successor, Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport Co. (1914-1973); the bulk of the material dates from 1900 to 1945. The collection includes design drawings, detail drawings, sketches, photographs, sales journals, clippings, scrapbooks, and ephemera documenting the work of and compiled by the firms. Also included are photographs, scrapbooks, books, and trade catalogs that formed part of their design resource library. The research files of scholar Anne Farnam regarding the firms are also present. See series descriptions for details.

Acquiring and processing the collection, and making the finding aid accessible online were made possible through the generosity of an anonymous foundation and Mr. and Mrs. David A. Martland, along with support from Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Schorsch and other anonymous individuals.

Details

Collection Name
Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport -- Collection I
Collection Code
CC010
Dates
1880-1973, undated, predominant 1900-1940
Abstract
This collection documents the work of A. H. Davenport Co., Irving and Casson, and their successor Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport Co. A. H. Davenport Co. was one of the country's most successful all-purpose interior design firms and furniture manufacturers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Irving and Casson was a firm specializing in interior woodwork and church furnishings. The two firms merged in 1914, remained a dominant force in the industry for several decades, and closed around 1973.
Acquisition Type
Library & Archives Purchase
Date of Acquisition
2012
Physical Description
290 boxes; ca. 345 linear feet
Finding Aid Info
An electronic finding aid is available through Historic New England's Collections Access Portal. A paper finding aid is available in the Library and Archives.

Collection Type
Corporate Records
Description Level
Collection
Custodial History
The seller acquired this collection from a dealer in the 1980s. How or when the dealer acquired it is not known; however, Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport Co. ceased operations in the early 1970s. It is possible that it was sold to the dealer as part of the dissolution of the firm's assets.
Credit Line
Historic New England, Library and Archives Purchase, 2012, 2012.201.1.
GUSN
293714
Reference Code
CC010

Historical/Biographical Note

Albert H. Davenport (1845-1906) was born in Malden, Massachusetts, and went to work as a bookkeeper for the Boston furniture maker Ezra H. Brabrook in 1866. Upon Brabrook's death in 1880, Davenport purchased the company for $139,000 and changed the name to A. H. Davenport Co. Davenport's business acumen and the artistic talent of his chief designer Francis H. Bacon (1856-1940) helped to turn the firm into one of the country's most successful all-purpose design firms. From its showrooms in Boston and New York, the firm served business magnates including Henry Clay Frick, F. W. Woolworth, Cornelius Vanderbilt III, and George Eastman as well as middle-class clients. Architects such H. H. Richardson; McKim, Mead, and White; Peabody and Stearns; and Little and Brown hired the firm to execute many of their designs. Notable commissions included 225 pieces of furniture for the Iolani Place in Honolulu, Hawaii, as well as work for the 1902 White House renovation.

The partnership of carpenters Charles R. Irving (1842-1925) and Robert Casson (1848-1931) started in 1874. Beginning with the production of wood mantels and interior finishes, their firm expanded to include furniture among its product offerings. Like Davenport, Irving and Casson worked with well-known architects such as Ralph Adams Cram and began to supply these architects with furnishings with a particular expertise in Gothic Revival church interiors. Taking advantage of their natural business synergies and adjacent factories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the two firms merged in 1914 to create Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport Co.

Starting with A. H. Davenport Co. and continuing after the merger, the firm built an extensive reference library containing American and European books on decorative arts as well as scrapbooks containing thousands of pages filled with clippings and photographs. The company also organized its original design drawings in albums by furniture type. Additionally, the firm created more than 200 photograph albums to document its output.

The firm's business began to decline in the mid-twentieth century and its last major commission was interior work on the United Nations headquarters in New York. Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport Co. ceased operations around 1973.

Sources
Condon, L. (2014, Fall). "Their works will follow them": Building the Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport archive. Historic New England, 15 (2), 22-25. Farnam, A. (1976, May). A. H. Davenport and Company, Boston furniture makers. Antiques, 109 (5), 1048-1055.
Farnam, A. (1979). H. H. Richardson and A. H. Davenport: Architecture and furniture as big business in America's gilded age. In P. B. Kebabian & W. C. Lipke (Eds.), Tools and technologies, America's wooden age (pp. 80-93). Burlington, VT: University of Vermont, Fleming Museum. Farnam, A. (1987). The A. H. Davenport Company of Boston: Notes on the upholsterer's trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In E. S. Cooke, Jr. (Ed.), Upholstery in America & Europe from the seventeenth century to World War I (pp. 231-238). New York: Norton. Monkhouse, C., & Mitchie, T. (1986). American furniture in Pendleton House. Providence, R. I.: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.

Material in other collections

A. H. Davenport Co. Design drawings. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

A. H. Davenport Co. Drawings. http://cprhw.tt/p/2AwgV. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY.

A. H. Davenport Co. Drawings, ca.1890-1901 (Col. 154); Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Winterthur, DE.

Irving and Casson. Furniture designs, ca. 1908-1925 (Col. 752). Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Winterthur, DE.

Irving & Casson - A. H. Davenport Co. records, 1875-1974. Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.

Arrangement

The original order of this collection is unknown. The collection is arranged into nine series as follows: Series I. CC010.001: Albums -- Design Drawings, 1880-1914; Series II. CC010.002: Albums -- Photographs, 1880-1973; Series III. CC010.003: Journals, 1904-1949; Series IV. CC010.004: Scrapbooks, 1880-1973; Series V. CC010.005: Sample Book, ca. 1914; Series VI. CC010.006: Other Photographs, 1880-1973; Series VII. CC010.007: Books, 1880-1973CC10.008: Series VIII. Research Files, 1970-1991; and Series IX. CC010.009: Ephemera and Other Materials, 1880-1973.

Record details

Originator
A. H. Davenport Co. (American furniture manufactory, active late 19th-early 20th centuries)
Farnam, Anne
Irving & Casson
Irving & Casson - A. H. Davenport Co.
Material Type
black-and-white photographs
blueprints (reprographic copies)
books
clippings (information artifacts)
design drawings
detail drawings (drawings)
journals (accounts)
photograph albums
photographs
renderings (drawings)
scrapbooks
sketches
trade catalogs
Restrictions
This collection is available for research. Delicate materials may be restricted due to their condition. There are no technical restrictions on this collection.
Related Items
Irving & Casson - A. H. Davenport -- Collection II — CC011 contains items relating to A. H. Davenport Co., Irving and Casson, and their successor Irving and Casson - A. H. Davenport Co. that were acquired from sources other than The Strong Museum.
Armchair
Arm Chair
Settee
Chair
Library Desk
Bookcase
Mantel
Trim
Bed

Tea Table
Arm Chair
Sofa
Settle
Accruals Note
Accruals are not expected.
Conservation Note
Two design drawing albums - CC010.002: "Sideboards. Serving Tables." and CC010.004: "Chairs. Rockers." - have been treated and stabilized.
Language Note
Items are predominantly in English; however, some books, trade catalogs and photograph legends are in French, German or Italian.
Preferred Citation
[Item identification.] Box #, folder #. Irving & Casson - A. H. Davenport -- Collection I (CC010). Historic New England, Library & Archives.

Processing Information
This collection was processed by Project Archivist Lynne Paschetag, October 2015.
Rules and Conventions
This finding aid is DACS-compliant.

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