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Antiques Considered - April 6, 2011

This bench belongs to a gentleman from the Middle Peninsula, who acquired it at the auction of an old farm estate. The wood is walnut, and allegedly it originally served as a milk bench.  The auctioneer thought it was over 100 years old.  The finish might not be original.

With the handle hole in the seat indeed the bench probably did begin its life as a milk bench, although it seems a bit wide for that purpose, and it is unusual that walnut would have been the wood of choice for such a piece. Normally, milk benches are in pine, and sometimes still bear the original coat of buttermilk paint, particularly

those from the Shenandoah Valley, where milking was as much an art as a science.

In those days before mechanical milking came into production the idea behind this type of milk bench was that the person doing the milking could carry the bench in one hand and the pail of milk in another, going from cow to cow each morning and afternoon.

The workmanship appears to be quite good, and the construction entirely functional in purpose.  The level of wear and tear is also good, indicating that the bench certainly was not a parlor item, but likely saw hard service in the field.  Farm items, especially furniture, always are popular, with a ready market, although I doubt this one ever will appear in a barn fulfilling its primary purpose.

As to value, this bench is worth $225.  It has great lines, and from additional photographs, it is apparent that the farmer who made it knew what he was doing.  Whether the finish is original or not remains a question, but it has a good presentation at present, and I recommend doing nothing to change it.  If this piece could be authenticated as being an authentic Shenandoah Valley item, the price could be significantly higher.           

Happy Antiquing!

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