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Towns & Industry (1860-1880)

John Gibbard's Chairs

Gibbard Chairs

Horse Collar Chair, John Gibbard, Napanee, 1865

John Gibbard, a Canadian craftsman and cabinetmaker of English-Scottish descent, was born on August 6, 1813 to John and Margaret Gibbard (nee Hannah) of Camden Township. As a youth, John served as an apprentice to his father, a prominent carpenter and millwright, learning the skills of his trade before packing his tools and striking out on his own at the age of eighteen. During the next several years, John would become an apprentice to a carpenter-joiner, and travelled extensively, before moving to Napanee in August of 1836 where he later worked for John Benson installing doors and windows in Benson's new stone store (47 Dundas Street East). DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

An entry in the 1857-1858 Canada Business Directory reads, "Gibbard, John, J.P., fanning mill maker." In 1860, John Gibbard leased a mill on the canal from William Bartels. He started manufacturing furniture, doors, sash, and coffins on a modest scale advertising his wares in the Napanee Standard. After a fire in 1864, the factory was rebuilt and reopened in 1868, under the banner of Gibbard & Son. William Thomas Gibbard joined the family business and became a full partner to his father in 1870. The partnership between John and William Thomas was immediately successful. By 1873, John Gibbard and Son advertised "painted furniture such as wood seat, rocking, dinning and other chairs made by ourselves" in local papers. Their products became widespread when wholesaling was introduced in 1881.

Documented Gibbard chairs include a stencilled chair featuring an 1860's half spindle back and waterfall plank seat with a Canada West paper label underside, an 1870's arrowback chair with stamped Gibbard and Son label underside and an 1865 horse collar chair with hand signature and date underside. The signed horse collar chair is from the Napanee Town Hall. John was active in the community, and served as a member of the first council in 1865, after Napanee became an incorporated town.

A more intricate example of Gibbard’s impressive craftsmanship is the large hand-carved “Fish & Fowl” sideboard, dated c1872, which features elaborate carvings of fish and birds, and other wild animals on the sideboard’s trim and panels.

Unfortunately, the factory and stock were again reduced to ash by fire in 1874. However, by 1875, the business was rebuilt with improvements, allowing for even greater production. After a third fire in 1892, the company reorganized, rebuilt, and upgraded to meet the growing demand for Gibbard products, employing more workers as the company grew.

On Monday, April 27, 1908, in his 95th year, John Gibbard passed away at his residence in Napanee, leaving William Thomas to carry on his legacy. His funeral service was widely attended by factory employees, who presented their former employer with a series of beautiful wreaths. For four generations, the company was successfully managed by the Gibbard Family. George Gibbard succeeded W.T. Gibbard in 1913, and George Ernest Gibbard continued the tradition, operating the factory from 1929 until 1940, when Jack McPherson, a former Gibbard sales manager, purchased the factory and began a new tradition of quality with the McPherson Family.

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