The set designer for the top-rated series, Boardwalk Empire, has been interviewed explaining how she designed the Prohibition era sets on the Sky Atlantic website. There are a few surprises for viewers in Preston – such as Victorian dining chairs from Lancashire, relocated to 1920s New Jersey. In Lancashire and Cumbria, antique dining chairs and Prohibition shoot-outs seem as unlikely as Al Capone walking down Preston high street. Think again. In the series, Al Capone is played by local lad Stephen Graham, who was born and raised in Merseyside, bordering Lancashire.
Similarly, Victorian dining chairs of British origin would certainly not have been unusual in jazz-age households on the Atlantic coast, where incomes were low and the rate of immigration high. And as Carol Silverman points out, styles and fashions in America didn’t change so quickly then – even today, it’s not unusual to go into someone’s house and say, “Wow! This is so retro,” because they still have furniture from the 1970s.
Surprising to us in Lancashire, antique desks and Victorian dining chairs would still look fashionable in 1920s households. American interiors scarcely changed at all between the Civil War and World War II, because traditional styles of furniture equated to wealth and status, whether you were lower, upper or middle-class. In the case of the Arnold Rothstein character, Louis XIV furniture was exactly right for the home of a wealthy financier.
In Cumbria, one of the antique desks used in the show can be purchased from an online prop dealer – for $16,000. Alternatively, antique dealers in Preston have uncannily similar examples – Boardwalk Empire made heavy use of European antiques to aid authenticity.
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