Clearing Up the Confusion About Horn Chairs
Made By Texas Makers
Wenzel Friedrich, Charles Puppe,
William Mittmann & the Appel Brothers
Fully Explaining Their
Differences & Similarities
Including Information about Chairs from the Horn Palace
Before You Buy Or Sell
Judging from the number of
inquiries I receive, the public at large tends to believe horn chairs are rare.
TruthfulIy, there is a plentiful supply of antique horn chairs. Cattle horn furniture is
thought to have first appeared in America in 1876 when the Tobey Furniture Co. of Chicago
displayed an upholstered sofa and chair with arms made of horns at the Chicago Industrial
Exposition. It caught on quickly, and the making of items from horns grew and continued,
tapering off around 1920. Chairs are the most common type of furniture; horn settees, horn
tables, hall trees and hatracks were also made, but in lesser quantities. The making of
things from cattle horns became a massive fad that swept across the country. Texas,
Kansas, Missouri and Illinois all produced their share of horn furniture. It was also made
as far east as New York City and Leominster, Mass. Many pieces were made by individuals,
in unknown locations, who only made one or two items, and their work is usually unmarked.
Among the most talented, Herman Metz of St. Joseph, Missouri made about a dozen pieces of
horn furniture and related items, none of which were offered for sale. Charles Fletcher
and John Crane, both of St. Louis, made furniture as a business. Makers, such as Wenzel
Friedrich, Charles Puppe and William Mittmann, all of San Antonio, made furniture in
larger quantities over a period of several years. The Appel Bros. of Houston made horn
chairs but, seemingly, in fewer numbers. To capitalize on the craze, some home furnishing
companies added a line of cattle horn furniture by modifying some of their existing
pieces. Most horn furniture and items made from horn were never marked, and the makers may
never be known.
The quality and eye appeal
of horn furniture was only as good as the maker's imagination, skill and the size and
shape of horns available. As in any field of collecting, there always becomes someone
whose work stands out above the others. And so it is with Wenzel Friedrich. I receive many
questions about his furniture; but, over the last few years, confusion has developed
related to the chairs of Friedrich. A
growing number of horn chairs are being offered for sale at auction and elsewhere
attributed to Friedrich, which he didn't make. This is partly understandable as some of the chairs he made have
similarities to the work of other makers, in particular Charles Puppe and William
Mittmann, who were also makers of horn chairs in San Antonio during the 1880's, as was
Friedrich. The chairs of Charles Puppe are most often confused with a chair Friedrich
listed as his model No. 6. Chairs made by William Mittmann are sometimes attributed
to Wenzel Friedrich. It may be that one maker copied some design elements of another
maker's work. Though similar, these makers have easily recognizable characteristics that
distinguish their chairs, and every maker deserves to be recognized for his own work.
Comparing the Horn Chairs of Puppe, Friedrich and Mittmann
Charles Puppe's shop and
residence were at 229 Commerce Street in San Antonio. He first appears in city directories
as a maker of horn chairs in 1885 and is listed as late as 1891. The four tall vertical
horns in the lower back are a trademark design of Puppe. Chair has been re-covered.
Wenzel Friedrich began
making horn furniture in 1880 at his shop at 12 Crockett St. and is listed as late as 1897
as a maker of horn furniture. In the center back are two smaller, vertical horns, with
tips turned downward, fitted with acorn finials -- a classic feature known only to
Friedrich. This fabric is not original.
William C. Mittmann first
made horn chairs at his shop and residence at 214 Commerce Street in San Antonio in 1881.
By 1887 his shop was at Denison. In 1889-90 he's listed as a horn chair maker at Dallas.
The placement of horns on this chair are characteristic of Mittmann's design. Chair has
been nicely re-covered.
Comparing the Chairs of Puppe and Friedrich
chairs have similarities to what Friedrich called his Number 6. Both designs are similar
but the four longer horns making up the bottom back of Puppe's chair are
laid out and spaced in such a way to easily separate them from Friedrich's
No. 6. In photographs of 20
different Puppe-made chairs, all of them have the four longer vertical horns in the back.
In every case, the middle two are touching (or nearly so) and always lean toward each
other -- a characteristic I've never seen on any Friedrich chair. Study the tight,
closely arranged horns on the lower back of the Puppe chair. Compare the wide, open
spacing in the back of the Friedrich chair, an arrangement common to Friedrich's work.
Another confusing point between the Puppe and the Friedrich No. 6 is the fact that the No.
6 chair was not fitted with acorn finials. No known Puppe chair has ever been found to
have acorn finials.
(This chair re-covered in
Wenzel Friedrich offered several varieties of horn chairs. Puppe seemed to have created
one model with a nearly exact placement of horns on each chair.
Puppe's chair (left) is
often confused with Friedrich's No. 6 chair (right) because of the similar placement of
Common to the Puppe chair and
a Friedrich No. 6 are the top three sets of horns on the back, pointing downward, with a
circular band of horn covering where the horn bases join. This adds to the Puppe/Friedrich
confusion. Other unidentified makers have used these circular bands of horn - but not
Mittmann. These circular bands on your chair do not necessarily mean you have a Friedrich.
Friedrich used identical nickel-plated, glass ball casters on their chairs. Glass ball
casters do not guarantee you have a Friedrich chair.
In my research files, I have 84 photographs of different Friedrich chairs.
Only two of them are the No. 6. Apparently, not many of this model were sold.
Friedrich's No. 6 arm chair, as seen in his 1890 catalog.
This chair was sold new, not
having acorn finials on the horn tips.
According to Friedrich's catalog, all of his horn chairs were sold new
with acorn finials except the No. 6 model.
If your chair has acorn finials, you don't have a Friedrich No. 6.
No known Puppe chair has been found
having acorn finials.
of Charles Puppe
was sold to Texas rancher Dennis Martin O'Connor, who in turn gave it to President
Benjamin Harrison in 1889. Chair may be seen at the Harrison Home/Museum in Indianapolis.
placement of the four vertical horns in the chair's back, leaning inward toward each
other, and the three sets of horn on top, pointing downward, connected with circular bands
of horn quickly identifies this as a Charles Puppe.
used nickel-plated glass ball casters.
Undeniably made by Charles Puppe. Photo taken in Kansas, the 1960's.
Whereabouts unknown. As of Jan. 2018, only two Puppe child chairs are known.
born in Germany, Feb. 18, 1845 as Carl T. Puppe. He came to America in 1883,
was in San Antonio by 1885, and began referring to himself as Charles. A
cabinet maker. Listed in city directories from 1885-1891 as a maker of horn
chairs. Died Jan. 13, 1916. He is buried next to his wife, Minna, in
San Antonio. His tombstone reads "Carl Puppe." His children: Anna, Willie,
Otto and Oscar.
photo of the 1880's showing the placement of horns along the bottom back,
common to every known Puppe chair. Inscription reads: Chas. Puppe,
Manufacturer of Horn Chairs. San Antonio, Texas. Commerce Ste.
C. H. Savage Photographer, 247 Commerce Street, San Antonio, Texas.
Comparing the Chairs of Mittmann and Friedrich
Based on a study of 30 known Mittmann-made chairs, he seems to
have created one basic design, with minor variations. As an example, one chair might have
22 horns and another might have 24, but the layout of design, placement and spacing of
horns are always recognizably similar. Study how the horns, which make up the back, are
placed and their spacing. Mittmann, like Friedrich, did apply acorn finials to the tips of
some of the horns. Friedrich and Mittmann both used nickel, glass-ball casters on the
legs. But, for some peculiar reason, Mittmann sometimes only placed the casters on the
front two legs, and one known Mittmann chair was made
without any casters. Easily recognized on every known Mittmann chair is the covered horn junction in the upper back, a feature unknown on any
Friedrich or Puppe chair.
Cabinet Card Photo
William Mittmann Chair
here in its original cloth covering with fringe and tassels.
Mittmann, Puppe, and Friedrich all used the nickel, glass ball casters. These casters
alone cannot be used to determine the maker of your chair.
also offered a horn rocking chair. As of Feb. 2018, only two Mittmann horn rockers
are known to me.
and Friedrich used acorn finials made of horn. No known chair made by Charle Puppe has
ever been seen with these acorn finials.
glass ball casters on the front. Sometimes, Mittmann put casters on the
front legs only and, on some chairs, they were placed on all four legs.
upper back, the familiar horn junction covered with cloth, a characteristic of every known
chair he made. This junction has never been seen on a Friedrich or Puppe chair.
bands of horn where the horn bases are joined together have never been found on a Mittmann
An upper-grade chair. By
William Mittmann. Remember, a maker's work does not have to look exactly the same on every
chair. Some chairs may differ slightly based on a customer's order or what size, shape and
number of horns were readily available. Compared to Mittmann's advertisement, this chair
has fewer horns. But the main features, such as his glass ball casters, acorn finials, and
his trademark horn junction in the upper back identify his work. The color and pattern of
fabric used to re-upholster this chair added to its overall appeal.
The Chairs of Puppe, Friedrich and Mittmann -- Seat Coverings
& Horn Veneer
It was common for volume makers of horn furniture, as were Puppe,
Friedrich and Mittmann, to offer customers a variety of coverings.
Cloth-covered seating, often plush (velvet) with Victorian appointments such
as fringe and tassels were available, as well as what we call "buggy seat"
leather. Friedrich also offered Angora goat hide. Puppe, Friedrich and
Mittmann all made chairs covered with jaguar hide, at a higher cost. A large
percentage of old horn chairs have been re-covered.
A certain amount of time should be
given in choosing the type, color and texture of fabric when re-upholstering your
furniture. These chairs were all made in the Victorian period and many fabrics are
available today, which closely recreate that look. Shiny fabrics and vinyls should be
avoided and may reduce the value of your chair. It's best to pick a material that seems to
look as old as the horns do, and complements rather than clashes.
Friedrich is well known for
horn veneering on his chairs, tables and hall-trees. In March 2016, a Puppe
chair was found with the lower portion of the seat frame decorated with horn
veneering. Into the front side veneer are two inlaid diamonds, possibly made
of ivory. As of Feb. 2018, this is the only known example of Puppe horn veneering.
No Mittmann chair has yet been found with horn veneering.
The classic Charles Puppe
chair of the 1880's. Having 20 horns and glass ball casters. As with
Friedrich's chairs, this horn veneering was placed on all sides of the lower
seat frame. The chair above may have been re-covered.
A real beauty. Listed in
Friedrich's catalog as the Perfect Rocker, No. 10. Cushions covered in jaguar, with horn
veneering and an ivory star on the lower seat frame. The veneering and horn finials were applied with hide glue,
and it's common to find some of them missing. This chair sold new in 1890 at $80.
Not much variance is found
in the arrangement of horns on a Mittmann chair. This model has Tiffany glass ball casters
at all four legs, horn tips with acorn finials, and his trademark upper horn junction in
the back. A really attractive example, with large shapely horns. Re-covered.
Comparing the Chairs of Charles Puppe to Henry Appel &
Bros. of Houston
Henry Appel and his brothers' shop was located at 204 Preston in
Houston and is listed in city directories as a maker of horn furniture as early as 1887.
By 1892, they had moved to 706 Preston and are listed in that year's city directory as a
furniture dealer with no mention of being a maker of horn furniture. They apparently had a
short run with horn chairs, and very few of their chairs are known. The original maker's
tag is still attached to this chair seen below and reads, "H. Appel & Bros. The
cabinet makers & upholsters. The manufacturing of horn furniture and the moving and
repairing of furniture a specialty." Henry Appel was born in Germany in 1843 and died
in 1927 at Wichita Falls, where he is buried.
This chair shows Puppe's always-found features:
* glass ball casters
* four vertical horns in the lower back
* a stack of horns on top, with horn bands covering the bases
* and no acorn finials.
At a glance, this chair
could be mistaken for a Puppe chair because of the four vertically placed horns in the
back. There are no glass ball casters or supportive horns at the legs or circular bands of
horn where the horns come together. The padded headrest has never been found on any Puppe
chair. Original upholstery.
This small rocker carries no original tag but obviously came from the same hand as the
chair to the left. The upper headrest on the Appel chairs must not be mistaken for the
horn junction on a Mittmann chair. No known Appel chair has glass ball casters or acorn
finials. Horn furniture by the Appel Bros. seems to be in short supply. Attractively
Chairs at San Antonio's Horn Palace
popular tourist attraction, the Horn Palace Bar and Cafe was opened in 1912 by Billie
Keilman and, toward its end, was located at 312 E. Houston. Often referred to as a
roadhouse, the Horn Palace featured live bands and dancing, and was a point of attraction
for up and coming musicians. Chicken dinners were a specialty. Customers could dine while
sitting in horn chairs, which were also offered for sale. Billie Keilman is listed
in the 1910 census as a saloonkeeper; was born in Bexar County, TX, 1875; and died Nov. 1925.
chairs are believed to have been made between 1912-1921 while the Horn Palace was in
operation. They have
flat bottomed seats and a small amount of padding. They were covered in cattle hide or
angora goat hide, as seen above, with nickel-plated, metal, non-rolling casters. The
number and placement of horns is nearly always identical, with little variance.
We don't know who made the Horn Palace chairs. In San Antonio's Witte Museum
is a child's horn rocker made by Steve Brodie, around 1912, the year the
Horn Palace opened. The chair is strikingly similar to the chairs in the
Horn Palace. It may be that Brodie made chairs for Billie Keilman or, at
least, had some connection with supplying them.
Whether used by patrons at the Horn Palace or
purchased there, this cattle hide chair (left) has been sat upon many times.
Except for the rocking chair
version, this caster (above) has been found on every known Horn Palace chair.
Horn Palace rocking chairs have no springs in the seat, are lightly padded with a cloth
covering, and have a double row of upholstery tacks -- features known to every Horn Palace
rocker. They tend to be a little smaller in size than the average adult horn chair and may
not always have the same number of horns but the similarity of design is obvious. Every
known Horn Palace rocker has a single wooden cross member connecting the bottom two
||The Horn Palace, as it was commonly referred to, claimed
to have the largest collection of horns, antlers, and mounted specimens in the world,
numbering over 5000. In 1921, a gangland-style shooting occurred there, and Billie Keilman
was shot and nearly killed. By 1922, the Horn Palace had closed and the entire collection
sold to Albert Friedrich of the Buckhorn, including the horn chairs, some of which are on
display at what remains of the Buckhorn in San Antonio today.
Click here to see more Horn Palace photos.
In addition to chairs made by Puppe and Mittmann, other horn
chairs by unknown makers are being attributed to and offered for sale as the work of
Wenzel Friedrich, chairs that he did not make. Remember, horn chairs from different makers
may look similar.
Texas horn chair makers of the 1880's have been identified. They include Antonio Papeschi,
a carpenter by trade, Frank Lachuga, and August Biesenbach. All three of them were in San
Antonio. No advertisements for or photos of chairs by these three makers are known to me.
label for the firm of Houston & Moegelin of Dennison, Tex. was found on a horn
hatrack. They list themselves as manufacturers of all kinds of polished horn work. Whether
this includes horn chairs, we don't know.