William H. Bartels Bedroom Suite<img alt="" src="/sites/GovernorsMansion/Exhibitions/PublishingImages/Art-of-Illinois/bartels-bedroom-suite.jpg" style="BORDER:0px solid;" />William H. Bartels Bedroom Suite<div class="ExternalClass89CD50E36E1E437586A19509B3457A76"><p>A reporter visiting the World's Columbian Exposition (the 1893 Chicago world's fair) wrote: "If you are especially lucky you may be shown when you visit the Illinois building Gov. Altgeld's chambers and reception room. In the executive chamber is the pride of the state; the finest and most valuable suite of parlor furniture that ever came to Chicago." Some of the wood used in making the furniture was once part of an old farm fence; other wood supposedly came from the beams of the old Mormon temple in Nauvoo, Illinois.</p> <p>The rail fence originally stood near Carthage, Illinois, on the farm of William H. Bartels, a remarkably skillful wood carver who originally fashioned the furniture for his own home. He whittled a complete suite of parlor furniture from white oak; he then carved a bedroom ensemble using oak and birch.</p><p>Artistically carved parlor furnishings loaned to and on display at the Exposition included a fireplace mantel topped by a mirror frame cabinet, chair, and a sofa with an ornate three-panel back. A high-back bed, dressing cases, an armchair, and smaller chairs stood in the bedroom. Although reminiscent of furniture forms popular in the 1880s, Bartels' designs were entirely original, with ornament drawn from his natural surroundings, using wild roses, oak leaves, and ferns as the basis for most of his decorative work.</p><p>Bartels began carving the pieces in 1879; while convalescing from typhoid fever, he passed the time by whittling one of the old oak fence rails with a jackknife. Piece by piece, each requiring months of patient work over eight years, he carved the furniture for his farmhouse. Eventually, he gave up farming and took up carving as a full-time occupation.</p><p>Bartels was born in Hanover, Germany in 1848. He came to the United States at the age of nine with his parents, who settled on a farm near Carthage in Hancock County, Illinois. At some point, he left to work in Chicago but returned to look after the family farm and his aged mother after his father died in 1879. He clerked at a Carthage hardware store in the 1890s, which he eventually purchased and operated until the mid-1920s.</p><p>Bartels, who never married, kept the furniture in his possession until his death in 1932. Arthur H. Black, a friend from Dallas City, Illinois, bought the entire collection at the auction of Bartels' estate. After Black died in 1948, his widow kept the collection until 1966, when she lent it to the Illinois State Museum. When Black's son decided to sell the collection in 1980, it was sent to Sotheby's auction house in New York. Governor James R. Thompson raised the funds and personally placed the winning bids to purchase both suites for the Illinois Governor's Mansion.</p></div>GP0|#5ba68682-a36a-4f24-9fd8-e28ee0c92137;L0|#05ba68682-a36a-4f24-9fd8-e28ee0c92137|William H Bartels;GTSet|#6a9f5109-021d-478a-ae73-864102492159;GPP|#b8008031-8d86-41bf-8c8c-657f66f046d4;GPP|#be65f490-4890-487c-bb16-c396d99511f7Furniture;#PermanentWood;#Other;#Carthage, IllinoisHandcarved furniture in oak and birch 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, Illinois Collection of the Illinois Governor’s Mansion Association