Mark Butcher

I have always been a bit of an armchair history buff.  I’m not necessarily talking about political history, or global economic history, or religious history.  I’m talking about local history.

Perhaps my love of antiques has spurred this on, or perhaps it is my love of history that has spurred on my love of antiques.  In any case, I am always fascinated and intrigued by how things used to be, how things used to look, and more importantly, how people who have lived in our community in the past have shaped the present.  Mark Butcher was one of those people.

Mark Butcher (1814-1885) was Prince Edward Island’s most prolific and perhaps most influential cabinet-maker.  The manufacture of furniture was a flourishing industry in PEI in the nineteenth century, and each locality had its own chair maker just as they had their own blacksmith. Mark Butcher, emigrating from Ireland when he was 15, set up shop in Charlottetown, in and around King Square.

Mark Butcher lived in a happy time, as far as cabinet making was concerned, as politicians and newspapers continually and strongly encouraged the support of local industry.  It seems their actions spoke just as loudly as their words also, for the government of the day employed him to furnish the Central Academy, the Prince of Wales College and also items for Government House and some government offices.

Butcher operated a factory on the corner of Kent and Hillsborough streets, now the site of the Maritime Christian College.

So what was produced at Butcher’s factory you ask, where at times as many as 40 men were employed?  Well, along with furniture for every room of the house they also made picture frames, ladies work-tables, butlers’ trays, bidets, bootjacks, snuff boxes, venetian shades, washing-machines, office, school, and church furniture, caskets, and last but not least, croquet sets.

In 2008, the city of Charlottetown erected a monument to Mark Butcher, in the middle of historic King Square.

Though prolific in his manufacture, Mark Butcher also had a very recognizable style, especially with his chairs, which often can be identified by a ‘bell’ or inverted tulip turning on the leg.  And this summer, during our much talked about shopping spree I was very lucky to come across one of these such chairs.

 I am now a very proud owner of a piece of Mark Butcher furniture, and therefore, a very proud owner of a piece of local history.

 

13 thoughts on “Mark Butcher

  1. It is so awesome that you know exactly what you purchased. I would not have a clue. And I love that you are educating us with your blog. I vaguely remember when this monument was erected but did not recall the history lesson you have just shared with us. Thank you – and keep on blogging!

  2. My, my what an interesting article ! Just think what quality there must be in this chair to have survived. Weren’t you the lucky one to have found it ! And now it will have a happy home. Do you have new upholstery fabric picked out ?

    • Still on the look out for new fabric upholstery, but I’m sure the right one will appear. An easy DIY upholstering project for a rainy Saturday afternoon awaits.

      • I have two of these chairs and just recently stripped and put new upholstering on ….I got the material at Fabric Ville….

  3. Great site guys! Thanks for the education – now I’ll be on the lookout for some of Butcher’s creations. Wonder if it’s still around? Stuff sure isn’t made the way it used to be.

  4. Pingback: Mark Butcher II (update) | ………………………….theottomanempire

  5. Mark Butcher was my 4th g uncle. I was in Charlottetown back in Sept. 2010 and saw the chairs and memory info about this man. I have a picture of myself sitting on one of the chairs. If anyone knows of any of his furniture for sale, please let me know. Thanks. I live in Peterborough, Ontario.

    • Hi Jan – thanks for the comment. And sorry for taking so long to respond. His pieces come up once in a while around here in auctions, although they are getting rarer and rarer. I’ll try to keep an eye out for you.

      • Thank-you Craig. I just got on this site again. But I really do believe the picture on the plaque is not of mark but of his father, William Butcher.

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