Frame Job: Newcomb-Macklin Company

A watercolor and ink on illustration board by Arthur Rackham (British, 1867 to 1939), illustration from Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle in Newcomb-Macklin frameTracing its beginnings to S. H. McElwain’s entry into business in 1871, the Newcomb-Macklin company gained its famous name when McElwain introduced his bookkeeper, Charles Macklin, to John C. Newcomb and they became partners in 1883. The Chicago firm would go on to employ many designers and craftsmen to produce some of the most beautiful and original Arts & Crafts frames in America as well as to purchase the rights to reproduce the famed architect Stanford White’s frame designs after his assassination in 1906. Drawing from a wide variety of frame designs, Newcomb-Macklin crafted frames for many important American painters including George Bellows and John Singer Sargent, often working directly with their premier artist clients, especially the American Impressionists, to develop frame styles and finish treatments to compliment their paintings. Newcomb-Macklin frames came to be highly sought by the discriminating public, and in order to meet this demand, the company maintained showrooms in New York and Chicago, as well as employing traveling salesmen to represent their wares in the early years of the new century. In 1979 the Newcomb-Macklin company was purchased by the Thanhardt-Burger Corporation. The acquiring company had specialized in producing hand-made frames since 1927 and is now considered to be the oldest continuously operated frame-making company in the United States.

It is fairly easily to distinguish Newcomb-Macklin frames, as they have the unusual construction technique of perpendicular corner splines. They are also usually factory stamped and occasionally labeled as well. Newcomb-Macklin frames appear fairly regularly at auction, sometimes on existing paintings as the original frame, sometimes empty, and they fetch fairly steady prices, because they are still considered quality frames of good construction and good resale value.