Detail, Fretwork desk, Charles Trowbridge, Sheboygan Falls, 1911
The New Holstein Historical Society in Calumet County operates two sites, the recently restored Timm House and the Pioneer Corner Museum. At the Timm House, I photographed several examples of furniture made in the region, including a striking desk/display cabinet made by Charles Trowbridge, a dentist in Sheboygan Falls (detail above). Creating elaborate decorative fretwork like the cutouts on this desk was a popular hobby among men in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Trowbridge’s desk is by far the largest piece I’ve seen that incorporates this technique–smaller items like clocks were more typical. The style mirrors the Victorian “gingerbread” architectural ornament popular at the time. This website from a contemporary fretwork hobbyist includes a digital reproduction of an 1895 how-to guide, Fretwork and Marquetry: A practical manual of instructions in the art of fret-cutting and marquetry work, by David Denning.
Other items I photographed in New Holstein included willow baskets made by the Schildhauer family, an icebox manufactured in Fond du Lac and decorated to look like an Eastlake-style cabinet, and a large vase hand-painted with birds.
Posted by Emily Pfotenhauer.