IN 1865, Seth Kinman (1815-1888), the California Hunter and Trapper, gave US President Andrew Johnson a GRIZZLY-BAR CHAIR.
MARSHALL R. AUSPACH writes in The Lost History of Seth Kinman, 1947:
“This was intended to surpass all his previous efforts, and was made from two grizzly bears captured by Seth. The four legs and claws were those of a huge grizzly and the back and sides ornamented with immense claws. The seat was soft and exceedingly comfortable, but the great feature of the chair was that, by touching a cord, the head of the monster grizzly bear with jaws extended , would dart out in front from under the seat, snapping and gnashing its teeth as natural as life.”
* Kinman is recorded as being the first American to purchase land in Humboldt County and in 1853 he started working as a hunter for the government, feeding U.S. troops in Fort Humboldt. There he met future President, Ulysses S. Grant, and future General, George Crook…. Kinman marched in President Lincoln’s funeral cortege in Washington. Kinman was allegedly in Ford’s Theater the night of the assassination and witnessed the murder. He escorted Lincoln’s body on its way to burial. On April 26, 1865, the New York Times described Kinman in the funeral cortege in New York City: “Much attention was attracted to Mr. Kinman, who walked in a full hunting suit of buckskin and fur, rifle on shoulder. Mr. Kinman, it will be remembered, presented to Mr. Lincoln some time ago a chair made of California elk-horn, and continuing his acquaintance with him, it is said, enjoyed quite a long conversation with him the very day before the murder.”
In his later years, Kinman lived in Table Bluff, California with his family, where he owned a hotel and bar. In 1886, Kinman was preparing to send chairs to President Grover Cleveland and former presidential candidate General Winfield Scott Hancock. He died in 1888 after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. He was interred at Table Bluff Cemetery in Loleta, California. One of his grizzly bear chairs and the famous mule bone fiddle were displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka displays his buckskin clothing, complete with beaded moccasins, as well as a wooden chest he owned.
Kinman presented similar gifts to Presidents James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln , Andrew Johnson and Rutherford Hayes. In 1864, Kinman had given President Lincoln an elkhorn chair. Journalist Noah Brooks reported:
“The latest present is one which has been brought from California by an old trapper, whose name I have vexatiously forgotten. The gift is a chair of buckhorns, with the branching antlers interlaced to form the back, seat and arms. It is an unique affair, and much like one the same trapper gave to Buchanan four or five years ago.”
That same year, the New York Times profiled Kinman:
The chairs made him famous:
“A Curious Chair for President Buchanan,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle (May 18, 1857): “An old Western hunter, Seth Kinman, sent a chair from Humboldt, California, which arrived in New York by the George Law for President Buchanan. The chair is made entirely of the antlers of the deer, fashioned into a most comfortable arm-chair, with a high sloping back and convenient arms. A pair of antlers, with six points each, form the front legs and arms; and another pair, having five points each, form the hind legs and back. Small antlers, having two points each, join the whole together in a substantial manner. The seat is made from the dressed skins of the bucks whose antlers form the chair. They have, all told, just thirty-one points, corresponding with the number of states now in the Union. The whole chair is simply varnished, showing the original color of the antlers. The old hunter has engraved his address on the left arm point: Seth Kinman, Humboldt County, California.”
* While delivering an elkhorn chair to President Buchanan in 1857, Kinman said “l awoke one fine morning and found myself famous.” He made use of this fame, starting in the summer of 1861, together with ventriloquist and magician J. G. Kenyon, by opening an exhibit, first in Eureka, then in August in San Francisco. Kinman displayed his “curiosities” including an elkhorn chair, mounted grizzly bears, several fiddles, and scalps, and gave a lecture.
How they shouted and yelled when I related some of my old ‘bar’ stories and hair-breadth escapes, and played on that fiddle made out of the skull bones. That got them! I would wind up on the “Arkansas Traveler” and their enthusiasm wound up to the highest pitch. Before I fetched my ‘bar’, I would horrify them by telling them how the ‘bar’ tore Indian children to pieces, and how I finally trapped the ‘bar’ with a young dead Indian. Then the ‘bar’ was led out by a chain, and he would dance before he unbuttoned himself and out stepped a man. Then I had to explain about the ‘bar’ skin. Then I told the audience how I sawed off those Indian scalps the ladies looked horrified and aghast. Then I would tell about the Indian way of life. I would finish up by describing my elkhorn chair and how I had constructed it.
This 1889 photo shows the Interior of Kinman’s Table Bluff Hotel and Saloon in Table Bluff, Humboldt County, Calif., 1889.
* In his later years, Kinman lived in Table Bluff, California with his family, where he owned a hotel and bar. In 1886, Kinman was preparing to send chairs to President Grover Cleveland and former presidential candidate General Winfield Scott Hancock. He died in 1888 after accidentally shooting himself in the leg. He was interred at Table Bluff Cemetery in Loleta, California. One of his grizzly bear chairs and the famous mule bone fiddle were displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka displays his buckskin clothing, complete with beaded moccasins, as well as a wooden chest he owned.
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