History in the Making: Frederick Duckloe & Brothers, Inc.
It's rare to find an American company that continues to take pride in the meticulous craftsmanship of years past to produce heirloom quality furniture. But there is a small, colonial furniture manufacturer tucked away in Portland, Pennsylvania, a village near the Delaware Water Gap, which does exactly that.
The family company was started just a few years prior to the Civil War, in 1859, by master craftsman and carriage maker Frederick Duckloe, who experimented with the making of Windsor chairs from available sketches and drawings of the great English masters. Plain and fancy Windsor chairs soon replaced his carriage sales, and many of the models he made during the late 19th century are highly prized by today's serious antique collectors.
In the 1930s, his only son, W.J. Duckloe – who had made his mark by making many fine reproduction pieces in solid wood – turned his attention to Windsor chairs. With razor sharp hand-turning tools and a lathe powered by a foot treadle instead of electricity, W.J. Duckloe made his early chair models. These handmade Windsor chairs were signed with chisel marks and perfect in every detail.
In 1938 Frederick Duckloe Sr., eldest son of W.J., joined his father and by 1946, there was a great demand for all Duckloe products. In the 1950s, Frederick Duckloe decided to specialize in the making of Windsor chairs and settees.
Private and commercial customers would often submit special drawings of a favorite chair or settee for exact duplication. While this new demand on the skill and tools of a small shop would often place orders a half year behind in delivery, the Duckloe name continued to gain recognition.
When Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, was in its formative years, Frederick Duckloe offered to donate the furnishings for the now renowned Medal of Honor Room. In 1976, Frederick Duckloe was asked to reproduce in faithful detail, two of the most-prized original pieces from the collection of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a chair and a settee, for the U.S. Bicentennial.
In 1980, the Smithsonian Institution requested Duckloe to reproduce a circa-1800 chair from its National Museum of American History. Sold exclusively through the Smithsonian, it is shown in the Institution's Catalog. In 1981 the First Boston arm and side chairs were first reproduced under a commission by The First Boston Corporation. And in1988, The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (SPNEA) commissioned Frederick Duckloe & Brothers to be the exclusive makers of all Windsor chair reproductions for their museum.
Frederick Duckloe & Brothers Inc. continues to employ many talented artisans and their apprentices who are firmly committed to a long tradition of making only the finest handcrafted Windsor furniture reproductions. Today family members Barbara Duckloe Townsend and Frederick B. Duckloe, who represent the fourth generation of the family, head the company.