A Tale of Two Chairs (or Paul McCobb vs. Clifford Pascoe)

Early in my collecting career I bought what I thought was a Paul McCobb Bentwood and Iron side chair. I was ecstatic! It was an amazing bargain at only $65.00.

Obviously the fellow I was purchasing it from didn't know what he had. He even tried to convince me that it was not by McCobb.

But I Knew Better!

Later on I learned just how little I actually knew and that what I had so vehemently thought was a Paul McCobb chair very clearly wasn't by Paul McCobb at all. I didn't know who it had been designed by, but I decided that I was going to find out. This was an important part of the long chain of events that ultimately led to my Paul McCobb research project.

Now on with our article...

1951 Planner Group #1535 Chair
Paul McCobb designed Planner Group Chair from
Interiors, June 1951

1951 Planner Group #1535 chair manufactured by Winchendon Furniture
A picture of the 1535 Chair in my own collection

In 1951 Paul McCobb introduces his iconic #1535 Planner Group Bentwood and Iron Chair (above). The #1535 side chair was rather expensive, retailing for $29.95, as compared to the #1531 wooden side chair which sold at that time for $17.95. The #1535 side chair was not in production for very long, and was phased out of the Planner Group by 1953.

Examples of this chair are really very hard to come by today, they are comparatively rare by virtue of their high initial cost and short period of production. When they do show up they are quickly snapped up to be placed into private collections never to be seen again.

So how the heck did it become such an icon?

Part of the answer is misattribution.

In late 1951 a remarkably similar (and substantially cheaper) chair designed by Clifford Pascoe for Modernmasters Inc. was introduced to the market, this chair was included in the 1952 Museum of Modern Art Good Design show.

1952 Modernmasters #DW4155M Desk and #SD34710 Chair
Modernmasters Desk and Chair from the 1952/53 Modernmasters Catalog page 23.

1951 Modernmasters SD3710 & SD3810 Chairs
Modernmasters SD3710 & SD3810 taken from the 1952/53 Modernmasters Catalog page 5

Modernmasters Scans Courtesy of the Ball State University Library Drawings and Documents Archive

Modernmasters Inc. was a curious company selling derivative furniture designs both through furniture stores and also mail order through ads in magazines such as House & Garden, House Beautiful, etc...

This Pascoe designed chair initially sold for $19.95, as time went on the price gradually reduced, first to $14.95, then $12.95 and finally as low as $8.95 apiece in 1963. It was quite a good looking chair (as was it's distant cousin the #1535 McCobb chair) and obviously very popular considering the duration of the production run and the number still around today.

How do you tell them apart? Here's a list of the major differences:
  1. Paul McCobb chair has a metal stretcher across the bottom between the front and rear legs (see images above), the Pascoe chair does not have this.
  2. Clifford Pascoe chair incorporates an upholstered foam rubber seat, the Paul McCobb chair a carved wooden seat.
  3. Where the Pascoe chair uses bolts through the back of the backrest to attach it to the iron uprights, the McCobb backrest is connected invisibly at the bottom of the backrest.
  4. The McCobb backrest is more sculptural and less angular than the Pascoe backrest.
Those are your major identifying points. Don't be fooled by cheap imitations! Take it from one who knows...

Special thanks go to Scott Lindberg over at Silab Studios for the improved title.

Comments

  1. Great Information! Thanks very much for this article and your wonderful research ..... eddy

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  2. I'm so happy to have stumbled upon your blog and to learn of your research. I was trying to find out more about McCobb's later 50s and 60s work, and mystified that there is so little information out there on such a significant designer. I was wondering if anyone doing research on him -- really glad to find out you're doing this important work, and I'll look forward to updates!
    Gene

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  3. Good to know. I have four of the Pascoe chairs and have been looking to get some more for my dining room table. Any idea on where to buy new feet?

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  4. A quick google search for 1/2" leg tip brings up:

    http://www.shepherdhardware.com/products.php?type=103

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  5. thank you for the info..much appreciated..always willing to be taught new info!!

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  6. Great info, I just bought a set of 4 of these chairs today. I've had them before and always thought they were McCobb as well. Even if they're not McCobb, they're still cool chairs, and I got these for a pretty screamin' deal, so I'm not too worried. ;-)

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  7. They are definitely cool chairs, no doubt about that.

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  8. I just picked up a set of 4, still need to take a closer look to determine McCobb or Pascoe. Thanks for posting this info!

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  9. It's pretty simple to tell Melinda, if they have a upholstered seat they are not McCobb.

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  10. The only thing that I am confused about is that the iron base on my chairs does not match either of the above examples. On mine, there is no center stretcher but the two side stretchers are directly in contact with the seat bottom, there is no gap. Perhaps mine were from a different year?

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  11. There are several variants on the Pascoe design, some of which were definitely produced by other companies.

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  12. Amazing article. I have been collecting these "McCobb chairs" for years, and now realize that I have three different variations of #1535, none of which are actual McCobb designs.

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  13. hi
    I used a part of the information from this post..with link back to ur post..hope its ok :)..and thank you for hopping over to my blog and sharing such valuable information

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  14. I am desperately searching for some of these chairs for my dining room. I would take 4 or 6 chairs - McCobb or Pascoe or a reproduction from the same era. If anyone's got a lead on something that would work, please contact me. I'm not a collector, just someone that thought this look would work well with my table. :) My email is shemme[at]hotmail[dot]com

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  15. Picked up 3 Pascoe chairs out of a friends basement. I grabbed them because they had a nice mid-century modern look to them. One was in good shape, I re-upholstered the seat of another, but tossed the seat of the 3rd because it was extremely moldy (nowhere to safely store/clean in my apartment). Wish I hadn't thrown it out, but it seemed simple enough to reproduce in the future. I kept the frame and wooden backrest. I'll likely restore all 3 in the future, but I just needed some serviceable chairs for some guests, and these fit the bill. Nice to read about the history. Even if they're not McCobb's, they're still quite handsome.

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  16. So excited to find this article! My mom's parents had 4 Pascoe chairs and they've spent the better part of the last 30-40 years in her basement. Now they're mine and I looove them! Recently had them reupholstered in black vinyl and they look fabulous! Happy to finally know "whose" they are!

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