I attended a lecture series this week on Arts & Crafts Style homes in Seattle hosted by the Historic Seattle. There were three great lectures and i thought I would share with you some of the information that I learned. This is Part 1.
Lecture 1: “The Manufacture of Arts & Crafts Furniture by Gustav Stickley” presented by W. Michael McCracken
Gustav Stickley (1858 to 1942) was a furniture manufacturer that produced some of the most iconic arts and crafts furniture at the turn of the century. As the lecturer pointed out one has to be careful because it is not clear who actually designed the furniture; possible candidates came and went during the brief time of the existence of the company. Mr. McCracken delved into the business records of the furniture company and shared with us some of the innovations in the manufacturing of the furniture. We also learned about the staffing, chemicals used in the finishing process, how much of the furniture was truly handmade and how much was handled by machinery. We learned about how finishes and colors changed over time and the cash flow of the firm. All these business papers are held at the Winterthur library in Delaware. In the end it seemed a sad story. Mr. Stickley started producing his “square furniture” in 1901. By 1903 he was selling over $1M a year but by 1915 he declared bankruptcy. The furniture company established by his brothers, who he was in competition with, survives to this day.
Here is that iconic chair. I have sat is “knock offs” and it truly is a comfortable chair. Notice the leather seat and cushion, the careful mortise and tenon joints (3!) at each seat support to the vertical member, the color and the sheen of the wood, the tiny addition to the arm of the chair, like a finial to a stair and the stick quality of it’s construction. All are the typical details of Stickley’s style. Compare that with the fancy Victorian age furniture of the era, or press back chairs and you get the idea of how radical these designs were. And also understand that this chair, an original, was built between 1901 and 1903, making it 110 years old! Note: at the time this chair cost about $53. A pressback dining room chair cost at that same time about $1.
The business papers that McCracken used in his research are located at:
“Gustav Stickley Business Papers”, Winterthur Library, Joseph Downs Collection of Manuscripts and Printed Ephemera, Winterthur, DE (http://findingaid.winterthur.org/html/HTML_Finding_Aids/COL0060.htm : accessed 16 September 2013).
The photos are from Wikipedia and both are in the public domain. I thank Wikipedia for filling in some of the details of the above article. It wasn’t that Mr. McCracken didn’t cover them but rather that I failed to record them at the time.
What I have done since the last posting (which has been a while): I continue to work on my own house history. I feel I must finish it up before I can truly work with a client. The complexity of our partial 3 lots is extreme. I have a major assignment due for my ProGen class and so I worked on it for the past two weeks. Very intensive. I also had an assignment due in my Mastering Genealogical Proof study group which I finally got posted but I need to do some work on that. In the next few weeks I will be cranking on the next SGS Bulletin. It will be a busy 4-6 weeks. Then I can take a bit of a break.