Ceremonial Chairs
Few objects better illustrate the profoundly deferential and hierarchical nature of colonial society in the South than ceremonial chairs, which both literally and figuratively elevated the leaders of governmental, fraternal, and religious organizations above the crowd. Chairs imbued with ceremonial functions reinforced patterns of social deference and order throughout the British Empire. In domestic settings, the patriarchs of seventeenth-century households occupied joined or turned “great chairs,” while other family members and guests sat on smaller side chairs or stools. A similar hierarchical system came to exist in most public buildings in colonial Virginia. That an impressive selection of ceremonial chairs from eastern Virginia survives speaks strongly about the Old Dominion's emulation of British cultural traditions.