Gift from Henry Ford finds its way to Henderson Library

A rather plain-looking light rocker, backed and seated with woven cane, is now located in the Special Collections reading room. When it was first donated, by Dr. Robert M. Benson, Jr., it was in seriously damaged condition, the seat broken and some parts only a bundle of sticks. But carpenter Leroy Whitley of Physical Plant, with some help from Terry Hart and Michael Waters, restored it to intactness. It is still not for sitting, though.

The chair’s provenance makes it interesting. Bulloch County native R.J.H. DeLoach (1873-1964), after stints as principal of Statesboro High (1903-1905) and a botanist at the University of Georgia, had by 1917 become the Director of Agricultural Research at Armour and Company in Chicago. During this time he was a member of an exclusive club of a handful of intellectuals and businessmen known as the Vagabond Club. The group went on upscale camping trips across the North American Continent. His camping buddies included Harvey Firestone, John Burroughs, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It was Ford who gave him this chair, ca. 1930. Ford occasionally visited DeLoach at his home on Savannah Avenue. Neighbors said they always knew when the generous Ford had been to town, because a new Ford car stood in the DeLoach driveway afterwards. Professor DeLoach began teaching Economics in 1932 at South Georgia Teachers College. He ended his career here in 1943. The chair was among items bought at an estate sale by Robert Benson, Sr. after Professor DeLoach’s death.

The Vagabond Club:  Professor DeLoach sitting at bottom of waterwheel & above (l-r), Edison, Harvey Firestone, Jr., John Burroughs, Henry Ford, & Harvey Firestone, Sr.

The Vagabond Club:  Professor DeLoach sitting at bottom of waterwheel, & above (l-r), Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, Jr., John Burroughs, Henry Ford, & Harvey Firestone, Sr.

This article was contributed by Marvin Goss, Head of Special Collections.  Photographs of the chair are by Steve Hooley, Technical Support Specialist.

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