Antiques & Collectibles: Convertible highchair is an unusual heirloom

Antique convertible highchairs similar to this one that work presently sell for $90 to $225 based on condition.

Question: My photo shows our old highchair in an upright position. A small latch behind the seat and a pair of hooks by the wheels easily transforms the highchair into a stroller. Owned by my husband's family for at least a century, it has had some restoration. Information would be appreciated. - R.W., Pleasantville

Answer: From the 1850s to the turn of the last century, clever inventors and engineers obtained hundreds of patents for convertible furniture. The innovative pieces, beloved by Victorians, included combination desks and bookcases, benches and hutch tables, snooker dining tables, folding ladder-back chairs that transformed into step stools, pull-down beds hidden in walls, cabinets, mantels and upright pianos, reclining "slumber" chairs and children's highchairs that converted to play chairs, rockers and strollers.

The mechanism that converts your highchair with lift-up tray and foot rest to a stroller is fairly uncomplicated compared to other systems that require manipulating levers on a chair's back to lower its seat and wheels as well as release a stored handle used to push the stroller.

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Generally 38 to 41 inches high and fashioned from oak or maple, early convertible highchairs feature decorative slat and spindle backs such as those on your chair as well as cane seats. Later models with cane seats and backs eventually were replaced by examples with showy pressed wood backs and solid wooden seats. Additionally, your chair's combination of two large cast iron wheels and a smaller pair are found on early examples while later models have four matching small wheels.

Turn of the last century pressed-back, convertible highchairs currently command $110 to $395, depending on condition and intricacy of decoration. Earlier models with slat and spindle backs are bringing $90 to $225.

Question: Enclosed is sketch of an old mirror with gilt wood frame I bought at a thrift shop. It is 30 inches high, 13 1/2 inches wide and at its top, under glass, is a painted woodland scene. "Eglomise" is written in pencil on the mirror's back. Please tell me what you can about my mirror and "eglomise." - B.L., Stone Harbor

Answer: Your mirror's split-column frame with applied rosettes on block corners typifies decoration found on Sheraton furnishings, a neoclassic style related to the American Federal Period (1780-1820). Introduced by artist and designer Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806) such pieces are identified by their carved and inlaid decoration, fluting, swags, floral, architectural and sometimes gilded ornamentation.

Eglomise is a French term used to describe a technique, often called reverse painting, used to decorate glass inserts found on clocks, framed art and mirrors.

Popular during the 1700s and 1800s, the process in-volves painting a mirror-image picture in opaque colors on the back of such ornamental glass panels.

Authentic Sheraton eglomise mirrors with a gilded split-column frame sell for $150 to $375 based on age, condition, size and art. However, you may want to have your piece examined by a dealer or appraiser to insure that it is not one of the contemporary copies offered by manufacturers online and in stores.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

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