My husband and I acquired a table a few months ago. Although it does not look like the mission oak style of Stickley, the remnant of a label appears on the bottom which more clearly than not states “Stickley” and a seal that states “tables and chairs.” The table is a tea table. It is mahogany with bone inlay and mother of pearl accents. When the three drop leaves are down the table is in the shape of a triangle and when the leaves are lifted the table looks like a clover.
We have reason to believe this table was a wedding gift from an oil baron and his wife in the early 1900s due to an article received with the table but cannot authenticate any of
We appreciate any input you may have. Thank you for your time.
— M.M. & L.M.
Your table is called a handkerchief table and does date from the early part of the 20th century.
When dealing with the Stickley family, the choices are oldest brother Gustav and his Craftsman line of Arts and Crafts/Mission style; L. & J. G. Stickley (Leopold and John George), which produced items virtually identical to Gustav’s as well as a large line of Colonial Revival furniture; Stickley Brothers of Grand Rapids (Albert and for a short time John George), which produced mostly Colonial Revival; and Stickley-Brandt (Charles and an uncle), which made late Victorian and Colonial Revival.
The table certainly is not from Gustav. His label was totally different from the drawing you sent me of your partial label. It is also very different from the marks used by Stickley Brothers and L. & J.G. Stickley Inc. That leaves Stickley-Brandt or Stickley & Brandt as it is sometimes labeled.
Charles Stickley left the original Stickley Brothers Furniture Co. in 1884 and started the new company in Binghamton, N.Y., with Uncle Brandt. The company went out of business in 1919 and Charles died soon after.
I was able to find other Stickley-Brandt labels very similar to yours, so I feel confident that the identity and time period are correct. As for the oil baron part — you are on your own there.
I recently purchased a buffet from an antique store in California. When it was delivered, I was cleaning the drawers when I noticed two brass name plates on the inside of one of them. The first one says “Calvin, Grand Rapids.” The second one says “Irwin Collection, designer Paul McCobb.”
I started to do some research today and discovered that Robert W. Irwin was prominent in the Grand Rapids Area Furniture Manufacturers Association. I was wondering if there is a connection with him and the piece I have just purchased.
If you have any information on him I would appreciate it. Thanks.
— Z.M., Carlsbad, Calif.
As far as I can tell, there is no direct connection between your buffet and Robert W. Irwin; but, it is unlikely that anything that happened in Grand Rapids was unconnected to Mr. Irwin. He purchased controlling interest in Royal Furniture in 1900 and, in partnership with his brothers, he started Irwin Seating in 1905. In 1914 he was elected president of the national
organization, the Furniture Manufacturers and Fixture Manufacturers Association. [For more information on Mr. Irwin and his companies, see “Grand Rapids Furniture, The Story of America’s Furniture City,” by Chris Carron, published by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.]
The Robert W. Irwin Co. owned both Royal Furniture and Phoenix Furniture and produced furniture under all three labels. The company was purchased in 1951 by a group of investors and was closed in 1953. The rights to the name were sold to Sterling Inc. of New York.
Calvin Furniture Co., the maker of your furniture, coincidentally (?) opened in 1953. I do not know if Mr. Irwin was directly involved in the company. Paul McCobb was a famous designer of modern furniture in the mid-20th century and did design the line known as the “Irwin Collection” for Calvin. McCobb (1917-1969), won the Museum of Modern Art good design prize five years in a row, beginning in 1950. His designs were aimed at fitting well-built, high-quality, low-cost furniture with the needs of consumers.
A buffet very similar to yours, designed by McCobb and built by Calvin, with the same brass rectangular tubular base supports and flush mounted doors, is illustrated on page 147 of “Fifties Furniture – With Values” by Leslie Pina (Schiffer Books, 1996).
I have some fairly expensive older chairs that I use with my kitchen table. They have the type of web seating that is woven in and out of the holes drilled around the edge of the seats and the webbing is starting to sag. I called one shop about re-weaving them but it was going to cost almost as much as I paid for the chairs. They charge BY THE HOLE! I really like the look and don’t want to upholster them. Is there any other choice?
— E.P., Rockford, Ill.
Naturally, craftspeople charge by the hole for this type of work, but they charge by the number of holes drilled into the seat, not the number of holes
that show in the pattern of the cane. I am assuming from your description that your chairs have what is known as “hand” cane or “hole” cane, woven through the holes drilled through the seat frame, as opposed to “sheet” cane or “pressed” cane which is held into the chair seat in a groove and secured by a narrow piece of wood called a spline. But it really doesn’t matter what kind of cane you have since the cure for a case of the “sags” is the same for both varieties.
Turn a chair upside down and place a warm, wet cloth on the unfinished underside of the cane. The cloth just needs to be wet, not dripping. Let is soak for about 30 minutes or so. Then turn the chair upright and allow it to dry overnight, preferably in a warm room. As the cane dries out it will tighten itself back up. This quick fix is good for only a couple of times during the lifetime of a cane seat.
After that it will have to replaced.
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