Many Shaker chairs produced in the first half of the nineteenth century had “balls” or “tilter buttons” inserted into the bottom of their back legs.
The purpose of the buttons was to keep the point of contact of the back leg flat on the floor instead of having the edge of the hard wood chair post dent the soft wood floor. In 1852 the Shakers attempted an improvement on this device by making a unit out of brass and/or pewter that could be fit over the bottom of the chair post. This improvement was patented by a Shaker brother, George O’Donnell, in 1852.
This chair is one of only a few dozen that survive with this improvement intact. Whether the metal tilter was not successful, too expensive to make, or fell from favor when rocking chairs came to dominate the Shaker chair market, is not known.
The chair itself is an extremely fine example of the Shaker chairmakers’ skill. It is made of fine wood, figured maple and birch, delicately turned, and still has its original cane seat and pewter tilters intact.