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Trash or Treasure: World’s Fair connection tenuous

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to the Detroit News
Karl Intemann  with his antique chair.

 “I inherited this chair from my grandparents’ estate,” wrote Karl Intemann to the column in an email asking for advice and an appraisal. “My grandfather Norman W. Morris invented the game Go To The Head of the Class. I was always told they bought the chair from the World’s Fair that was held in New York. There are no markings on it, and the back of the chair comes off.” 

“We always called it the World’s Fair chair,” Intemann later told appraiser Joelle Del Rose of DuMouchelle’s at a recent Trash or Treasure event held at the landmark downtown auction house and gallery.  World’s Fairs were held in New York in 1939 and 1964.

Intemann went on to add that his grandfather had been an architect for Macy’s department store in New York City and had been born in the early 1900s. The Intemanns have protected the chair and kept it in their bedroom to safeguard it and keep it from being used.

Del Rose identified the furniture piece as an English Gothic Revival Hall chair, adding that the smaller size was popular for both youths and women. “At this time chairs like these were popular,” she said. “People coming into a hall or foyer would usually see a large umbrella stand and a chair like this one, although they were more decorative than utilitarian. They were status pieces.”

She admired the intricate carving and details on the Intemanns’ chair, and explained that it included references to Old Gothic, Victorian as well as English Aesthetic Movement styles, which began in the late 19th century.

She doubted, however, that it had any real connection to any of the World’s Fairs despite family stories. “It could be a reference to the 1886 World’s Fair, where some of these industries would have been shown off,” she said, “I’m sorry to disappoint you but it’s a tenuous connection at best.”

She said that it’s more likely a later 19th century piece, approximately 1880s, not the 1930s as they had originally thought and appraised the piece at $250 to $500. She also said that family histories can be less than reliable and that, unfortunately, stories can change as they are passed down through generations. “It’s a lot like playing a family game of telephone,” she says.   

Intemann said they don’t have a hallway and an umbrella stand to use it in the manner it was once intended, but they plan to keep the attractive piece either way. “It’s a family treasure,” Intemann said.

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item: 

Item: 19th century parlor chair

Owned by: Karl and Joanne Intemann

Appraised by: Joelle Del Rose, DuMouchelles

Estimated value: $250-$500