Recently, this small chair inside a bottle caught our eye because it is inscribed on the legs, "Liberty / Odd F. Home / FLT / IOOF / G.G. Barnhart 1924." We were charmed to add it to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection. I am pleased to share what I've learned about it so far, but I hope that readers will help us to learn even more about it.
The bottle is only 4 1/2 inches high and 1 3/8 inches square, just to give you a sense of its diminutive size. Crafting small items like this and placing them in bottles was a popular pastime during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Perhaps the most well-known example is the ship in a bottle. However, chairs were not unusual. There are several known examples that show a strikingly similar style to this one and most are inscribed with Odd Fellows initials, or "Odd Fellows Home." Several also have inscriptions suggesting that they originated in Liberty, Missouri, like ours.
The Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri, was one of many institutions erected and run by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternity across the United States. Odd Fellows members are encouraged to visit the sick, educate the orphan and bury the dead, so homes like this, which offered lodging and care for orphans, the elderly and the destitute, fit well with the tenets of the organization.
The first home in this location burned down in 1900 and was subsequently rebuilt. The "School Building" was erected in 1904; the "Old Folks Building," originally known as the "Old Folks Pavilion," was built in 1907 and 1908; and the hospital went up in 1923. Given the inscriptions on this chair, it seems likely that it was made by a resident at the Home in 1924. Further research suggests that the "G.G. Barnhart" named on the chair was George G. Barnhart, born in Missouri in 1853. According to the 1920 United States Census, he was living at the "Odd Fellows Home" in Liberty, Missouri.
Have you seen other chairs in a bottle like this? Do they have a connection to the Odd Fellows Home in Missouri? Do you know anything about George Barnhart's life? If so, please write a comment below!