Business History Links
INDUSTRIES: Business History of Home Furnishings
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1748 - Francois Boch, iron caster and cannon maker, began manufacturing ceramic tableware (plates, cups, tureens) in town of Audun-le-Tiche in Duchy of Lorraine; 1767 - Jean-Francois Boch et Freres established in Septfontaines, Luxembourg; adopted early-industrial production methods; 1770 - introduced Brindille pattern (still made); 1791 - Nicolas Villeroy established earthenware factory in Vaudrevange on River Saar; made tableware using copper-plating; developed new process for printing complicated decorations on porcelain; 1836 - Boch, Villeroy merged; 1843 - established first jointly-owned factory, Cristallerie (glassworks); 1846 - introduced compression moulding manufacturing technique; 1879 - took over factory in Merzig, largest manufacturer of floor tiles in world; 1899 - began large-scale production of ceramic sanitary ware with easy-care properties (bathtubs, sinks, WCs); introduced slip-casting process (made bathroom equipment affordable); 1971 - first large-scale shipment of tableware to Japan; 1982 - restructured into three divisions: sanitary ware, tiles, tableware/crystal; 1989 - acquired 50% of Ucosan B. V. (Dutch), extended product line to plastic bathtubs, shower trays; 1992 - acquired majority interest in Alfoldi Porcelangyar, largest Hungarian manufacturer of ceramic sanitary ware, second largest manufacturer of tiles; 1996 - acquired majority interest in Mondial S.A., leading Romanian manufacturer of ceramic sanitary ware, tiles; 1998 - 8th generation in management, unbroken succession; focus changed from production-oriented ceramics company to European lifestyle brand; 1999 - acquired full control of Ucosan, formed core of new fourth division, wellness; 2002 - two divisions combined (Bathroom and Kitchen, Tiles); 2004 - sold four foreign tile factories, concentrated tile operations to improve performance.

1759 - Josiah Wedgwood, grandfather of Charles Darwin, opened first factory in Burslem, one of six towns of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, central England; first business in England to make bone china; profits paid for Charles Darwin's scientific research; June 13, 1769 - opened new factory near Hanley, called Etruria (incorrectly believed that Greek vases originally Etrusacan), with business partner Thomas Bentley, Liverpool merchant who sold Wedgwood ceramics; 1790 - John, Josiah II and Thomas (sons), Thomas Byerley (nephew) made into partners (John, Tom left in 1793); 1901 - Wedgwood provided bone china dinner service ordered by US President Theodore Roosevelt for White House; 1930s - fifth Josiah Wedgwood built new, modern factory at Barlaston in Stoke-on-Trent; 1940s - production started; 1986 - acquired by Waterford; formed Waterford Wedgwood PLC; January 5, 2009 - entered administration (bankruptcy).

1783 - William and George Penrose, developers, exporters, established Waterford Crystal; opened factory in Waterford, southeast Ireland; 1850s - business failed; 1947 - brand revived by Czech immigrant Miroslav Havel; 1986 - acquired Wedgwood; formed Waterford Wedgwood PLC; 1990s - listed on stock exchange, expanded overseas; 2005 - acquired Stoke-on-Trent ceramics maker Royal Doulton; January 5, 2009 - Waterford Wedgwood PLC filed for bankruptcy protection after attempts to restructure struggling business or find buyer failed; part of burgeoning list of British companies to succumb to global economic slowdown and credit squeeze; Woolworths, queen's tailor Hardy Amies, tea and coffee merchant Whittard of Chelsea, Royal Worcester, Spode have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent months.

December 11, 1769 - Edward Bevan received an English patent for Venetian blinds; August 21, 1841 - John Hampson, of New Orleans, LA, received a U.S. patent for "Venetian Blinds".

1815 - John Doulton made £100 investment; launched partnership with Martha Jones, John Watts (Jones, Watts and Doulton) at stoneware factory in Lambeth, South London; produced practical, decorative stoneware from small pottery (inkwells to ginger beer bottles); 1835 - Henry Doulton (son) joined business; expanded to chemical, industrial ceramics (artistic pottery, ornamental, commemorative, tableware products); 1871 - students of the Lambeth School of Art began decorating Doulton's salt-glazed brown stoneware; 1875 - relocated it to Stoke-on-Trent; 1877 - purchased major shareholding in factory of Pinder, Bourne and Co at Nile Street in Burslem, Staffordshire (handled tableware, ornaments, earthenwares); 1884 - produced bone china; 1901 - King Edward VII permitted company's Burslem factory to prefix its name with "Royal", company was awarded Royal Warrant for quality of its tableware; added crown to British lion logo, name changed to Royal Doulton; 1913 - launched highly collectable HN Series of Pretty Lady figurines; 1920s - became synonymous with finest English china across world; 1934 - Sister Mary Barbara Vernon, daughter of factory manager, drew first Bunnykins character as nurseryware (Collection still continues today); 1960 - introduced English Translucent China (ETC), better known as Fine China; 1966 - received Queen's award for Technical Achievement for contribution to china manufacturing (first china manufacturer to be honoured with this award); 1968 - merged with Minton; 1971 - merged with AEP, gained Royal Albert brand; formed Doulton Home (Royal Doulton, Royal Albert, Minton); 2005 - acquired by Waterford Wedgwood Group.Blinds". 

John Doulton (

Henry Doulton (

1824  - Isaac Babbitt joined with Taunton jeweler William Crossman, formed Babbitt & Crossman to produce Britannia tableware (Babbitt had run pewter shop in Taunton, MA; had discovered how to emulate Britannia metal, white metal alloy made from tin, antimony, copper, used by British in making of flatware and hollowware sold in United States & Britain); 1827 - renamed Babbitt, Crossman & Company; 1829 - renamed Crossman West & Leonard; 1830 - renamed Taunton Britannia Manufacturing Company; 1834 - business failed; acquired by Henry G. Reed and Charles E. Barton (friends, fellow craftsmen, former employees); 1837 - renamed Leonard, Reed & Barton; 1840 - renamed Reed & Barton; 1850s - became involved in silver, pioneer in the practice of silverplating; 1867 - Barton died, Reed managed business; 1868 - introduced first patented flatware pattern, "Roman Medallion"; 1889 - manufactured sterling; 1900 - committed entire factory building to sterling production; 1901 - William B.H. Dowse (Reed's son-in-law) took over; 1908 - introduced signature flatware pattern, "Francis I" (company's most enduring design); 1923 - Sinclair Weeks, Sr. (Dowse's son-in-law) became president; 1940s - switched from making silver tableware for civilians to producing flatware and hollowware for armed forces, surgical instruments for Army Medical Corps (made out of stainless steel); October 11, 1949 - registered "Reed & Barton" trademark first used 1840 (silverware-namely, plated and sterling hollowware and flatware); 1971 - Sinclair Weeks, Jr. became president (named chief executive officer in 1976); acquired the Sheffield Silver Company (founded 1908); 1980 - silver bullion traded above $48/ounce (from $5/ounce in 1979), then crashed; led to pricing confusion for retailers; March 1982 - sued five competitors in federal court, charged "false advertising concerning the price of their products" (halted practice of deep discounting); Saudi government purchased 3,318 piece sterling service (single largest order in company's history); mid-1980s - specialized in silverplated hollowware, flat- ware, sterling flatware, stainless flatware, giftware; shifted towards product developer, distributor, marketer from maunufacturer; 1990s - stopped manufacture of stainless steel products in Taunton, MA, outsourced to Asia; late 1980s - introduced line of stainless and plastic-handled flatware to mass-market flatware market; September 1987 - Albert D. Krebel, president and CEO of Farberware Corp., named president; 1990s - manufactured, distributed architecturally designed serveware products; entered into licensing agreements (Ralph Lauren Home Collections, Waterford, Royal Doulton); 1993 - became the exclusive U.S. distributor of Val Saint Lambert Crystal's high-end tabletop lines; 1996 - sales of stainless steel flatware outpaced sterling silver flatware for first time; selected by The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games to manufacture the gold, silver, bronze medals for 1996 Olympic Games; one of country’s foremost marketers of fine tableware and giftware; one of nation's oldest privately-held silversmiths.

1748 - Francois Boch, iron caster and cannon maker, began manufacturing ceramic tableware (plates, cups, tureens) in town of Audun-le-Tiche in Duchy of Lorraine; 1767 - Jean-Francois Boch et Freres established in Septfontaines, Luxembourg; adopted early-industrial production methods; 1770 - introduced Brindille pattern (still made); 1791 - Nicolas Villeroy established earthenware factory in Vaudrevange on River Saar; made tableware using copper-plating; developed new process for printing complicated decorations on porcelain; 1836 - Boch, Villeroy merged; 1843 - established first jointly-owned factory, Cristallerie (glassworks); 1846 - introduced compression moulding manufacturing technique; 1879 - took over factory in Merzig, largest manufacturer of floor tiles in world; 1899 - began large-scale production of ceramic sanitary ware with easy-care properties (bathtubs, sinks, WCs); introduced slip-casting process (made bathroom equipment affordable); 1971 - first large-scale shipment of tableware to Japan; 1982 - restructured into three divisions: sanitary ware, tiles, tableware/crystal; 1989 - acquired 50% of Ucosan B. V. (Dutch), extended product line to plastic bathtubs, shower trays; 1992 - acquired majority interest in Alfoldi Porcelangyar, largest Hungarian manufacturer of ceramic sanitary ware, second largest manufacturer of tiles; 1996 - acquired majority interest in Mondial S.A., leading Romanian manufacturer of ceramic sanitary ware, tiles; 1998 - 8th generation in management, unbroken succession; focus changed from production-oriented ceramics company to European lifestyle brand; 1999 - acquired full control of Ucosan, formed core of new fourth division, wellness; 2002 - two divisions combined (Bathroom and Kitchen, Tiles); 2004 - sold four foreign tile factories, concentrated tile operations to improve performance.

1830 - Michael Thonet experimented with bending steamed wood to create furniture; bent battens that had been cut and laminated; invented Boppard laminated wood chair; 1843-1846 - worked for Carl Leistler, parquet flooring company; 1849 - established furniture-making workshop, made bentwood furniture; 1853 - registered as "Gebrüder Thonet" (Thonet Bros.), managed by five sons; 1859 - launched Thonet Bros. "Sessel Nr. 14" (renowned worldwide as "Viennese Coffeehouse Chair"); 1930 - had sold 50 million,  world's bestselling chair.

1831 - Jabez Gorham, in partnership with Henry L. Webster, established Gorham silver in Providence, RI; main product was 'spoons of coin silver'; dominated American silver from late 19th century to 20th century; crafted monuments, presentation pieces for foreign dignitaries and heads of state; May 15, 1906 - Gorham Mfg. Co. registered "Gorham Silver Polish" trademark first used January 1, 1870 (silver polish in liquid, powder, or paste form); June 26, 1906 - registered "Gorham" trademark first used January 1, 1831 (electroplated hollow-ware, electroplated or silverplated tableware, and electroplated or silverplated flat ware); largest single order - 740-piece service ordered by Colonel Henry Jewett Furber, president of Universal Life Insurance Company of New York.

April 20, 1837 - Erastus B. Bigelow, of West Boylston, MA, received a patent for a "Power-Loom for Weaving Coach-Lace and Other Similar Fabrics".

June 30, 1838 - Philos Blake, Eli Whitney Blake, John A. Blake, of New Haven, CT, received a patent for a "Caster" ("Mode of Constructing Casters and Applying Them to Bedstands").

May 22, 1841 - Henry P. Kennedy, cabinet maker and upholsterer from Philadelphia, PA, received a patent for a "Reclining Chair" ("new and improved action of the seat and back of a recumbent or library chair, by means of the introduction of a spiral wire spring into the seat").

August 21, 1841 - John Hampson, of New Orleans, LA, received a patent for a "Blind Stop" ("a new and useful Improvement in the Ordinary Movable-Slat Venetian Shutter or as to make the slats fit tight stay in any position in which they may be place"); first U.S. installation of Venetian blinds supposedly was in 1761 in St. Peter's Church, Third and Pine streets, Philadelphia, PA.

1846 - George S. Stearns, Seth C. Foster established mattress company outside Cincinnati, OH; March 26, 1974 - Stearns & Foster Co. registered "Stearns & Foster" trademark first used in 1846 (mattresses); December 1983 - acquired by Sealy Inc.

February 20, 1846 - John Drummond, of New York, NY, received a patent for a "Candle Mold"; molds for the manufacture of candles.

January 27, 1857 - James Harrison, Jr., of New York, NY, received a patent for a "Machine for Making Coiled Springs" ("...double conical coiled springs-such as commonly used for upholstery"); June 28, 1859 - received second patent for a "Machine for Making Conical Coiled Springs" (for upholstery and other purposes); December 15, 1857 - John Sawin, Daniel J. Goodspeed and John H. Minott, of Gardner, MA, received a patentfor a "Chair" ("an improved child's exercising chair...with its seat supported by a spring or springs so as to be capable of being freely rotated..."); 1871 - Heinrich Westphal credited with inventing innerspring mattress.

1861 - Fred Long, cabinetmaker, and Peter Kroehler began furniture and undertaking business at corner of Washington Street and Jackson Avenue in Naperville, IL; 1911 - acquired by Oliver Beidelman (Long's nephew); 1966 - acqiuired by Owen "Dutch" Beidelman (son); 2000 - acquired by granddaughter and husband.

May 31, 1864 - Frederick Walton of London, England, received  British a patent for "Improvements in the Manufacture of Floor Cloths and Coverings and Similar Fabrics and in Pavements"; linoleum (Latin words for linen and oil); made with a burlap base coated with a cement made from linseed oil, gum, resin and color pigments; previously, oil cloth had been used to cover floors;  1873 - linoleum was first manufactured in the U.S.

September 8, 1868 - William H. H. Hinds, of Groton, MA, received a patent for an "Candlestick" ("new and Improved Adjustable Candlestick").

November 23, 1869 - William and John W. Murkland, of Lowell, MA, received a patent for a "Power Loom" (an "Improvement in Power-Loom for Weaving Ingrain Carpet"); design reduced number of cams and levers involved in operating the loom; less power was required to maintain the motion of the machine; reduced maintenance and repair costs.

1870 - Zalmon G. Simmons built factory in Kenosha, WI (9 employees; manufactured wooden insulators, cheese boxes; 1876 - mass-produced woven wire mattresses; 1889 - introduced spiral coil springs for woven mattresses (price of woven wire mattress from $12 to 95 cents); October 22, 1901 - James Marshall, of Toronto, ON, Simmons employee) received a patented for a "Mattress" (" which the filling is composed of a plurality of coil-springs each contained in a pocket of suitable flexible material, a sufficient number of the pockets being located side by side to fill the mattress..."); made manually, intense time, labor, expensive, found on luxury liners (Titanic); 1912 - introduced Wall-A-Bed® bedding product,  predecessor to Murphy bed (Simmons produced for Murphy Company); 1916 - started first national advertising campaign (double-spread ad in Saturday Evening Post); 1918 - introduced cotton felt mattresses; 1925 - John Franklin Gail, Simmons's top engineer, designed machine to coil wire, insert it into fabric sleeves quickly, independently; formed basis of Simmons® Beautyrest® mattress; commissioned one of first definitive sleep studies; January 12, 1926 - Simmons Company registered "Beautyrest" trademark first used June 10, 1925 (mattresses); November 29, 1927 - Simmons Company registered "Simmons Company 1/3 Your Life Is Spent In Bed" trademark first used July 1, 1901 (bedsteads,, bed springs, cribs, cots, berths, bunks, couches, day beds, davenport beds, costumers, folding chairs, box springs, mattresses, etc.); 1957 - created National Technological Center (NTC) in Munster, IN; 1958 - first mattress company to introduce king, queen size mattresses; 1986 - acquired in leveraged buyout by Wesray Capital; 1989 - acquired by employees; 1991 - majority interest acquired by Merrill Lynch Partners; March 25, 1996 - acquired by Investcorp SA, management for $250 million (1995 sales of $490 million); October 1998 - 71% interest acquired by Fenway Partners for approximately $500 million; December 22, 2003 - acquired by Thomas Lee Partners and senior management in deal valued at $1.1 billion; 2000 - 75th anniversary of Beautyrest® line; June, 2000 -donated more than century's worth of archival materials to Smithsonian Institution; 2002 - introduced the first new mattress size in 42 years,  Olympic® Queen mattress; 2009 - 18 manufacturing plants in U.S., Puerto Rico, 23 international licensees, sub-licensees; September 25, 2009 -second-largest mattress maker, by revenue; filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as part of $760 million restructuring plan, acquisition by private-equity fund Ares Management LLC and Ontario Teachers Pension Plan. 

Zalmon G. Simmons - Simmons mattresses (

February 22, 1870 - Black American inventor Thomas Elkins, of Albany, NY, received patent for an "An Improved Dining and Ironing-Table and Quilting-Frame";  January 9, 1872 - received patent for a "Chamber Commode" ("a bureau, mirror, book-rack, washstand, table, easy-chair, and earth-closet or chamber-stool").

January 16, 1877 - Alexander Smith and Halcyon Skinner, of Yonkers, NY, received a patent for an "Improvement in Looms"; carpet power loom to weave Axminster carpets.

1881 - Daniel Haynes, cotton gin builder and operator of Sealy, TX, responded to request from neighbor. built cotton-filled mattress; received more and more requests from neighbors, relatives; March 5, 1889 - Haynes received a patent for a "Method of Making Mattresses" ("new and useful improvements in the art of manufacturing mattresses or the bats so construct the bat that it will not lump or wad into knots or bellows from use"); 1906 - patents and know-how acquired by Texas Company that took the name of Sealy; Earl Edwards, advertising executive, advertised Sealy in The Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal; 1920 - 28 licensed plants;1930s - eight strongest licensees, including The Ohio Mattress Company, pooled resources, retired debt of licensing Company, created what was to become known as Sealy, Inc.; December 17, 1946 - Sealy, Incorporated registered "Sealy" trademark first used January 1, 1889 (mattresses and sofa beds, [studio couches, and upholstered chairs]); 1950 - introduced Sealy Posturepedic brand mattress; 1956 - first company to display, advertise king sized bedding; December 1983 - acquired Stearns & Foster Company (founded 1846 by George S. Stearns, Seth C. Foster); 1990 - Ohio Mattress Company, taken private in leveraged buyout in April 1989, changed name to Sealy Corporation; November 1991 - 94% of stock owned by First Boston Corporation; February 1993 - acquired by investment group led by Zell Chilmark Fund L.P.; December 1997 - 90% of equity acquired by Sealy management, Bain Capital; April 2004 - 92% of company acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), Sealy management; April 7, 2006 - went public.

January 25, 1881 - Michael Brassill, of Hartford, CT, received  a patent for a "Candlestick".

1883 - Joseph P. (J.P.) Leggett, inventor with several patents, Cornelius B.  (C. B.) Platt, future brother-in-law, formed business partnership in Carthage, MO, county seat in southwest Missouri; produced L&P bedspring; May 26, 1885 - Leggett, of Carrollton, MO, received a patent for a "Bed-Spring"("...spaces between springs are in a great measure filled up, and the tick or mattress is prevented from falling through between the springs which support it...the manner in which the separate springs are coupled together and combined distributes the weight of any person resting on the mattress over the adjacent springs in addition to those directly underneath and keeps various parts of the mattress at the same level. When several persons occupy the same bed, they will lie at substantially the same level instead of pressing down the springs immediately underneath them to various heights corresponding with their respective weights"); 1883-1895 - operated from (C.D. Platt Plow Works, owned by Platt's father; sole manufacturer of coiled bedsprings, launched U.S. bedspring industry; 1901 - incorporated Leggett & Platt Spring Bed & Manufacturing Co.; 1929 - J.P. Leggett, Jr. took over; 1960 - Harry M. Cornell, Jr. (Leggett's grandson) appointed president (joined company in 1950, became manager of Ennis, TX plant in 1953; three production plants, $7 million in annual sales); October 15, 1999 - added to the S&P 500; 2007 - fifth decade of public ownership; 2008 - 21 business units, 24,000 employee-partners, more than 250 facilities located in over 20 countries.

Joseph P. (J.P.) Leggett - Leggett & Platt (

Cornelius B.  (C. B.) Platt - Leggett & Platt (

January 15, 1889 - Black American inventor, Daniel Johnson, of Kansas City, KS, received patent for a "Rotary Dining Table"; entire table with attached chairs was supported on one central rotating shaft - made seated persons part of a human "Lazy Susan" type of turntable.

June 11, 1889 - Black American inventors John E. Purdy and James R. Sadgwar, of Washington, DC, received a patent for a Folding Chair" ("cheap, strong and durable chair which is capable of being folded into small compass, so as to be easily portable. The invention consists in the peculiar manner of jointing or hinging the frame and in details of construction").

1890 - Jeremiah T. Murphy founded Murphy Phoenix Company; 1905 - acquired recipe for vegetable oil soap (popular in Germany), made the first Murphy® Oil, paste scooped out of large barrels; 1910 - packed into one- and five-pound cans of paste, sold in hardware, department stores; 1986 - national distribution achieved; July 7, 1987 - registered "Murphy Oil Soap" trademark first used January 1, 1985 (household cleaner pure vegetable oil soap); 1991 - leading wood cleaner in United States; acquired by Colgate-Palmolive.

1890 - Martin Sandberg, cabinet maker, founded Acme Furniture Manufacturing Minnesota; 1900 - moved to California; main products were wooden crates, woven baskets to haul groceries and supplies; 1918 - focused on bedroom furniture (usually more of it than anything else in typical family home); name changed to Sandberg Furniture Manufacturing Co., Inc.; manufactured cabinets, bedroom furniture, beds, dressers, chests, armoires, nightstands, vanities; one of California's oldest makers of home furnishings; 1985 - Southern California furniture industry was $1.3-billion/year business, employed more than 60,000 workers; 1985-1990 - 233 U.S. furniture companies (40 from California) moved factories to Tijuana, other Mexican border cities; 2000-2010 - 58.2% decline in furniture manufacturing employment in Southern California (33,200 jobs to about 13,900; manufacturing sector's second-worst workforce contraction, after the computer industry, which declined by 65.6%); employment at Sandberg Furniture fell to about 150 employees from about 450 several years ago.

1896 - Fernand Roche manufactured furniture at Établissements Roche, in heart of Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Paris’s furniture district; 1930s - Chouchan family (Russian immigrants) opened shop on the Boulevard Sébastopol at "Au Beau Bois," (later known as Bobois); 1950 - Jacques Roche (son) purchased Alexandre Dumas theatre on rue de Lyon in Paris, turned it into two stores; Philippe and François Roche (sons) developed strategy of company; used to distribute furniture from very best French contemporary workshops (Minvielle, Steiner and Airbourne), promote famous designers (Pierre Paulin, Marc Berthier); 1960 - Roches, Patrick and Jean-Claude Chouchan formed partnership, published first catalogue, developed national distribution network; 1961 - launched first nationwide advertising campaign on in Elle magazine; March 8, 1977 - Diffusion Ameublement Nordique Societe Anonyme registered ROCHE-BOBOIS trademark (furniture); 2007 - network of over 240 stores in nearly 30 countries in Europe, North America, Middle East, Asia; fourth generation has joined family business.

1899 - Edward and Leonard McRoskey ,of St. Louis and Chicago, brought mattress making equipment to California to sell to manufacturers; became manufacturers; April 12, 1927 - Edward McRoskey Mattress Co. registered "Airflex Quality Mattresses at Factory Prices Edward McRoskey" trademark first used October 27, 1925 (mattresses, bed springs, pillows, and couches); 1930s - Leonard and Robert McCroskey (Leonard's sons) joined company; October 23, 1934 - Edward L. McRoskey received two patents for a "Mattress Tufting Machine"; 2007 - Robin McRoskey Azevedo (granddaughter, Robert's daughter) President.

February 21, 1899 - Ernest P. Ray, of Washington, DC, received patent for a "Chair-Supporting Device" ("detached and portable supporting devices for tilted chairs"); for use on lawns, verandas, beaches, etc.

1903 - Thomas Lee (Westport, NY) designed "Westport Plank Chair" for his family as alternative to uncomfortable Victorian chairs; used wide, knot-free boards; had single, sloped back-board at an angle to inclined seat and legs, wide arms; July 18, 1905 - Harry C. Busnell, of Westport, NY, received a patent, without Lee's knowledge, for a "Chair" ("...of the bungalow type adapted for use on porches, lawns, at camps, and also available to be converted into an invalid's chair...strong, durable chair adapted to withstand rough usage and exposure to the weather"); plank chairs made from hemlock; sold to camps in Adirondacks, to health facilities for use by tuberculosis patients who spent time sitting in chairs as part of "fresh air" cure; named "Adirondack chairs".

January 1, 1904 - Baron Ichizaemon Morimura founded Nippon Toki Gomei Kaisha in the village of Noritake, near Nagoya, Japan to control manufacture fine china dinnerware (had established Morimura-kumi in 1876 to ship china, other gift items to America, distributed through wholesale, retail store in New York); 1918 - name changed to Noritake Company Limited; 1939 - marketed grinding wheels (first manufactured in-house for polishing china) for industrial uses (greater 2010 worldwide sales than Noritake china); industrial ceramics, electronic components, roller hearth kilns to make china production more effcient, became important segments of company's international business; world's premier manufacturer of tabletop products.

1910 - Richard B. Levitz opened Levitz Home Furnishings furniture showroom in Lebanon, PA; 1914 - Levitz Mercantile had largest delivery fleet in area; 1936 - Ralph and Leon Levitz (sons) opened second showroom in Pottstown, PA; 1963 - introduced "warehouse/showroom" concept in Allentown, PA store (large selection, low cost, immediate availability); renamed Levitz Furniture Company; 1968 - went public; September 5, 1997 - filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (squeezed by 'gallery concept' competitors, heavy debt load, sales of $967 million); February 2001 - emerged from bankruptcy; October 2005 - filed for bankruptcy protection for second time; December 2005 - assets acquired by affiliate of Prentice Capital Management, LP (hedge-fund manager Michael Zimmerman) for $70 million; 2007 - over 70 showrooms in U.S.

1926 -Efraim Ljung, Swedish furniture producer, founded Dux Industrier AB to produce first innerspring mattresses in Sweden; 1986 - Claes Ljung, third generation, developed DUXIANA® retail chain (more than 115 DUXIANA retail specialty stores in Europe, Australia, Asia, U.S.).

February 11, 1928 - Ed Shoemaker, Edward Knabusch (cousin) invented La-Z-Boy reclining chair with piece of plywood, yardstick (comfortable wood slat porch chair); Spring 1929 - introduced upholstered chairs for year-round market; December 21, 1954 - registered "La-Z-Boy" trademark first used January 1929 (chairs and ottomans).

1932 - Theodore Baumritter and Nathan S. Ancell (brother-in-law) founded Baumritter & Company, seller of housewares; 1936 - acquired early-American furniture factory in Beecher Falls, VT; 1939 - 28-piece "early American" furniture" line debuted at Chicago Housewares Show; changed name to Ethan Allen Interiors; 1962, - pioneered gallery concept of showing furniture in coordinated room-like settings, as people actually live; 1969 - went public as Ethan Allen Inc.; 1980 - acquired by Invesco for $150 million;  1989 - taken private in management buyout by group formed by Farooq Kathwari, Chairman and CEO; started dramatic revitalization of company, brand; 1993 - went public again; 2007 - nine plants in U.S., more than 3,000 design consultants work in international network of 307 Ethan Allen design centers.

Nathan S. Ancell - co-founder Ethan Allen  ( fwresources/afhf/ancell.jpeg)

1932 - Maurice Villency established furniture business in New York; third generation of family management; largest home contemporary furniture retailer in United States.

May 23, 1933 - Max Wasserberg, of Brooklyn, NY, received a patent for a "Beach and Lawn Chair" ("of the collapsible reduce the length of the chair when folded together so as to permit the placement of one or more of said chairs within a motor vehicle rearwardly of the front seat to permit the transportation of such chairs in motor vehicles to the seashore or bathing beaches or to other places for use").

1946 - Clarence Shaw bought Star Dye Company, small business that dyed tufted scatter rugs; started Shaw Industries.

1948 - Edith Heath founded Heath Ceramics, American potter, in Sausalito, CA, to produce ceramic products that resist trends, be loved and functional over lifetime and to make process, people, values of products tangible to buyers; used proprietary clay body development (one firing at lower temperature than customarily used to reach same levels of durability); Gump’s of San Francisco bought her tile and dinnerware for sale at its store, following one-woman show at San Francisco's Palace of the Legion of Honor; 2003 - acquired by Robin Petravic, Catherine Bailey.

November 17, 1953 - Serta Associates, Inc., registered "Serta" trademark first used August 10, 1938 (mattresses). 

Edith Heath - Heath Ceramics  (

(American Furniture Warehouse), Jake Jabs (2000). An American Tiger: An Autobiography. (Denver, CO: J. Jabs, 181 p.). Jabs, Jake; Businessmen--United States--Biography; Businessmen--North Carolina--Biography; House furnishings industry and trade--North Carolina.

(American Olean Tile Company), Frederic Bell (1973). Notes on a 50-Year Revolution: A Profile on the Company Whose Innovations Brought Ceramic Tile into the 20th Century. (Lansdale, PA: American Olean Tile Co., 109 p.). American Olean Tile Company--History.

(Bigelow-Sanford), John S. Ewing and Nancy P. Norton (1955). Broadlooms and Businessmen; a History of the Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 439 p.). Bigelow-Sanford Carpet Company.

(W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company), Brad Lockwood (2005). The Case Cutlery Dynasty: Tested XX. (Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 320 p.). Case family--History; W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company--History; Cutlery trade--United States--History; Knifesmiths--United States--History.

(W. R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company), Shirley Boser and John Sullivan; foreword by John R. Osborne, Jr. (2006). W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company. (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 128 p.). Case Archivist, Historian; Director of Marketing; Great-Great-Grandson of Company’s Namesake. W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company--History; W.R. Case & Sons Cutlery Company--Pictorial works; Cutlery trade--United States--History; Cutlery trade--United States--Pictorial works. 1905 - John Russell "Russ" Case brought fledgling W. R. Case & Sons Company to Bradford, dominated knife industry for next century; most collected knives in world.

(Charles Early & Marriott (Witney) Ltd.), Alfred Plummer. Richard E. Early (1969). The Blanket Makers, 1669-1969; A History of Charles Early & Marriott (Witney) Ltd. (London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 205 p.). Charles Early & Marriott (Witney) Ltd.

(Gillow & Co.), Susan E. Stuart (2008). Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840: Cabinetmakers and International Merchants: A Furniture and Business History. (Woodbridge, UK, Antique Collectors' Club, Ltd., 800 p.). Founder Member of the Regional Furniture Study Group, Hon. Research Fellow at the Centre of North-west Regional Studies (Lancaster University). Gillow & Co.; furniture making--United Kingdom--history. Definitive monograph on Gillows furniture and furniture designs.

(Gold Seal Company), Larry Woiwode (2000). Aristocrat of the West: The Story of Harold Schafer. (Fargo, ND: Institute for Regional Studies, North Dakota State University, 390 p.). Schafer, Harold Lyle, 1912- ; Gold Seal Company--History; Businessmen--North Dakota--Biography; Philanthropists--North Dakota--Biography. 

(Heath Ceramics), Amos Klausner; introduction, Catherine Bailey & Robin Petravic; contributions, Yves Behar ... [et al.] (2006). Heath Ceramics: The Complexity of Simplicity. (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 189 p.). Director of the San Francisco Chapter of the AIGA. Heath, Edith, 1911-2005; Heath Ceramics; Ceramic tableware --California --Sausalito --History --20th century. Signature tableware, tiles still made according to artisanal tradition conceived by Edith Heath in mid-1940s in Sausalito, CA; one of few remaining mid-century American potteries; history, legacy, craft, woman who created them.

(Henredon Furniture Industries), Michael K. Dugan (2009). The Furniture Wars: How America Lost a 50 Billion Dollar Industry. (Seattle, WA: BookSurge Publishing, 468 p.). Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Henredon Furniture Industries, Inc., Chair of the Business School at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Furniture industry and trade -- United States -- history. Impact of globalization on American furniture business - from making 'world class' products to shutting down plants in 5 years; tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars at stake; 50 years of furniture industry; why industry lost to foreign competition.

(IKEA), Bertil Torekull (1999). Leading by Design: The IKEA Story. (New York, NY: HarperBusiness, 244 p.). Swedish journalist. IKEA Group.

Ingvar Kamprad - IKEA  (

(IKEA), Elen Lewis (2005). Great Ikea!: A Brand for All the People. (London, UK: Cyan Communications, 192 p.). IKEA Group; Ingvar Kamprad; brand name products. History of company, its success; aspects of branding techniques; how, why achieved loyal fan base.

(Ikea), Johan Stenebo (2010). The Truth about Ikea: The Secret Behind the World's Fifth Richest Man and the Success of the Flatpack Giant. (London, UK: Gibson Square, 256 p.). IKEA Director for two decades. Ikea (Firm); Furniture industry and trade -- Sweden. World's largest flatpack furniture retailer with 700 million visitors/year; Kamprad's inspirational leadership (company built in his image from provincial store in Sweden); Kamprad's Nazi links, IKEA's low wage bill, exceptional profits, complex Stasi-like business culture with spies, resourceful ways of using media, companies to cover environmental issues.

(Interface), Ray C. Anderson (1998). Mid-Course Correction: Toward a Sustainable Enterprise :The Interface Model. (Atlanta, GA: Peregrinzill Press, 204 p.). Chairman, CEO (Interface, Inc.). Interface, Inc.; Sustainable development--United States--Case studies; Social responsibility of business--United States--Case studies; Industrial management--Environmental aspects--United States--case studies. 

(International Silver Company), Earl Chapin May (1947). Century of Silver, 1847-1947; Connecticut Yankees and a Noble Metal. (New York, NY: R. M. McBride, 388 p.). International Silver Company; Silverwork--New England.

(Jacques & Hay), Ruth Cathcart (1986). Jacques & Hay: 19th Century Toronto Furniture Makers. (Erin, ON: Boston Mills Press, 96 p.). Jacques & Hay; Furniture industry and trade -- Ontario -- Toronto -- History; Furniture, Victorian -- Ontario -- Toronto -- History; Furniture -- Ontario -- Toronto; Furniture design -- Ontario -- Toronto.

(Krug Bros. & Co.), Howard Krug (2001). A Century of Excellence: Krug Bros. & Co. Furniture Manufacturers. (Toronto, ON: Natural Heritage/Natural History, 184 p.). Krug Bros. & Co. -- History; Furniture industry and trade -- Ontario -- Chesley -- History.

(La-Z-Boy), Jeffrey L. Rodengen, Richard F. Hubbard (2003). The Legend of La-Z-Boy, Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Enterprises, 168 p.). La-Z-Boy, Inc.; Furniture industry and trade--United States. 

(Leggett & Platt), Jeffrey L. Rodengen (2008). The Legend of Leggett & Platt. (Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Enterprises, Inc., 200 p.). Leggett, Joseph P. (J.P.); Platt, Cornelius B. (C. B.); Leggett & Platt, Inc.; home furnishings--United States--history.

(Levitz Furniture), Wight Martindale (1972). We Do It Every Day; the Story Behind the Success of Levitz Furniture (New York, NY: Fairchild Publications, 150 p.). Levitz Furniture (Firm).

(Mercers’ Company of Coventry), Ronald M. Berger (1993). The Most Necessary Luxuries: The Mercer’s Company of Coventry, 1550-1680. (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 317 p.). Mercers’ Company of Coventry--History; Textile industry--England--Coventry--History; House furnishings industry and trade--England--Coventry--History; Coventry (England)--Commerce--History; Coventry (England)--Economic conditions; Coventry (England)--Social conditions.

(Mirror), Sabine Melchior-Bonnet; translated by Katharine H. Jewett ; with a preface by Jean Delumeau (2000). The Mirror: A History. (New York, NY: Routledge, 308 p.). Researcher at College de France (Paris). Mirrors--History. 

(Mirror), Mark Pendergrast (2003). Mirror Mirror: A History of the Human Love Affair with Reflection. (New York, NY: Basic Books, 352 p.). Mirrors--History; Reflection (Optics); Reflecting telescopes.  

(Michael Nairn and Company, ltd.), Augustus Muir (1956). Nairns of Kirkcaldy; A Short History of the Company (1874-1956). (Cambridge, UK: Heffer, 158 p.). Nairn (Michael) and Company, ltd. Manufacturers of floorcloth.

(Pacific Coast Feather), Chris Roush and Petyr Beck (2006). A Good Night's Sleep: The Pacific Coast Feather Story. (Seattle, WA: Documentary Media, 136 p.). Pacific Coast Feather --History; Bedding industry --Northwest, Pacific --History. Four generations of Hanauer family ownership, family and non-family company leadership.

(Reed & Barton), George S. Gibb (1976). The Whitesmiths of Taunton: A History of Reed & Barton, 1824-1943. (New York, NY: Arno Press, 419 p. [Reprint of 1943 ed.]). Reed & Barton; Silverwork--Massachusetts--Taunton.

(Reed & Barton), Renee Garrelick (1998). Sterling Seasons: The Reed & Barton Story. (Taunton, MA: Reed & Barton Corp., 168 p.). Reed & Barton--History; Silverwork--Massachusetts--Taunton--History; Silver industry--Massachusetts--Taunton--History. 

(Revere Copper and Brass), Issac F. Marsosson (1955). Copper Heritage; The Story of Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated. (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead, 254 p.). Revere Copper and Brass Incorporated.

(Richardson Industries - dates to 1848 and Joseph Richardson's saw milling operation in Sheboygan Falls, WI), Jay Pridmore (1998). The Richardson Story: A Family Enterprise at 150 Years (Lyme, CT: Greenwich Publishing Group, Inc., 112 p.). Richardson Industries--History; Furniture industry and trade--Wisconsin--History; House furnishings industry and trade--Wisconsin--History.

(Shaw Industries), Randall L. Patton (2002). Shaw Industries : A History. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 217 p.). Associate Professor of History (Kennesaw State University). Shaw Industries History; Rug and carpet industry Georgia History.

(Thonet), Christopher Wilk (1980). Thonet: 150 Years of Furniture (Woodbury, NY: Barron's, 143 p.). Thonet, Michael, 1796-1871; Gebrüder Thonet; Furniture industry and trade--Austria--Vienna--Biography; Vienna (Austria)--History.

MThonetPort.jpg Michael Thonet (

(Wedgwood), Anthony Burton (1976). Josiah Wedgwood: a Biography. (London, UK: A. Deutsch, 239 p.). Wedgwood, Josiah, 1730-1795; Potters--England--Biography.

Josiah Wedgwood Josiah Wedgwood  (

(Wedgwood), Sharon Gater and David Vincent (1988). The Factory in a Garden: Wedgwood from Etruria to Barlaston: The Transitional Years. (Keele, UK: Keele Life Histories Centre, University of Keele, 80 p.). Wedgwood & Company; Pottery Production History Staffordshire (England).

(Wedgwood), Robin Reilly (1992). Josiah Wedgwood 1730-1795. (London, UK: Macmillan, 412 p.). Wedgwood, Josiah, 1730-1795; Potters--England--Biography; Pottery, English--18th century; Wedgwood ware.

(Wedgwood), Brian Dolan (2004). Wedgwood: The First Tycoon. (New York, NY: Viking, 396 p.). Wedgwood, Josiah, 1730-1795; Potters--Great Britain--Biography; Industrialists--Great Britain--Biography. 

(White Furniture Company), Bill Bamberger, Cathy N. Davidson (1998). Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (New York, NY: Norton, 223 p.). White Furniture Company; Furniture industry and trade--United States; Downsizing of organizations--United States--Case studies; Plant shutdowns--North Carolina--Mebane. 

(James Williamson & Son Ltd. ), Philip J. Gooderson (1996). Lord Linoleum: Lord Ashton, Lancaster and the Rise of the British Oilcloth and Linoleum Industry. (Staffordshire, UK: Keele University Press, 288 p.). Ashton, James Williamson, Baron of, 1842-1930; Linoleum industry--Great Britain--History; Oilcloth industry--Great Britain--History; Businesspeople--Great Britain--Biography; Lancashire (England)--History.

James Williamson, Jr.: Lord Ashton (

Regina Lee Blaszczyk (2000). Imagining Consumers: Design and Innovation from Wedgwood to Corning (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 380 p.). Assistant Professor of History and American Studies (Boston University). Ceramic tableware industry--United States--History; Ceramic tableware industry--Great Britain--History; Glassware industry--United States--History; Glassware industry--Great Britain--History; Consumers' preferences--United States--History; Consumers' preferences--Great Britain--History. Those who attempted to create demand, shape taste to single national style usually failed; companies that honored consumer sovereignty instead of trying to elevate it, overpower it generally came out ahead; how,  in what sense consumers have exercised degree of sovereignty over  businesses offering them choices.

Arthur H. Cole and Harold F. Williamson (1941). The American Carpet Manufacture; a History and an Analysis. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 281 p.). Carpets; Rugs.

John E. Crowley (2001). The Invention of Comfort: Sensibilities & Design in Early Modern Britain & Early America. (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 361 p.). George Munro Professor of History (Dalhousie University). Households--United States--History; Households--Great Britain--History; House furnishings--United States--History; House furnishings--Great Britain--History; United States--Social life and customs; Great Britain--Social life and customs. 

Sharon Darling (1984). Chicago Furniture: Art, Craft & Industry, 1833-1983. (New York, NY: Chicago Historical Society in association with W.W. Norton, 416 p.). Furniture--Illinois--Chicago--History--19th century; Furniture--Illinois--Chicago--History--20th century.

Clive Edwards (2005). Turning Houses into Homes: A History of the Retailing and Consumption of Domestic Furnishings. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 294 p.). Research Director and Senior Lecturer in History of Art & Design (Loughborough University School of Art & Design). House furnishings industry and trade--History. 

Ed. David Hussey and Margaret Ponsonby (2008). Buying for the Home: Shopping for the Domestic from the Seventeenth Century to the Present. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Pub. Company, 250 p.). Senior Lecturer in History (University of Wolverhampton), Senior Lecturer in History (University of Wolverhampton)). Home economics --History; England --Social life and customs; United States --Social life and customs. How strategies of retailers were arbitrated by, negotiated through actions, desires of homemaker as consumer; four key themes: 1) retail arenas and the everyday; 2) identity and lifestyle; 3) fashioning domestic space; 4) cultural practice; how middle-class homemakers view, imagine, occupy domestic spaces in early-modern, modern, post-modern society.

Pat Kirkham, Rodney Mace, Julia Porter (1987). Furnishing the World: The East London Furniture Trade, 1830-1980 (London, UK: Journeyman, 136 p.). Furniture industry and trade--England--London--History; London (England)--History.

Randall L. Patton and David B. Parker (1999). Carpet Capital: The Rise of a New South Industry. (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 341 p.). Rug and Carpet Industry.

William Stevens (1968). Anvil of Adversity: Biography of a Furniture Pioneer. (New York, NY: Popular Library, 211 p.). Broyhill, James Edgar, 1892- ; Businessmen--United States--Biography; Furniture industry and trade--United States--Biography.

Martha Van Hoesen Taber (1955). A History of the Cutlery Industry in the Connecticut Valley. (Northampton, MA: Dept. of History, Smith College, 138 p.). Cutlery--Connecticut River Valley.

Kenneth Joel Zogry; edited by Philip Zea; foreword by Wendell Garrett; principal photographer by Ken Burris (1995). The Best the Country Affords: Vermont Furniture, 1765-1850. (Bennington, VT Bennington Museum, 172 p.). Curator at the Bennington Museum. Furniture --Vermont --History --18th century --Exhibitions; Furniture --Vermont --History --19th century --Exhibitions; Furniture, Colonial --Vermont --Exhibitions. This catalogue accompanies the exhibition, 'The Best the Country Affords', held at the Bennington Museum, Bennington, Vt., May 6-July 30, 1995 and the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vt. on August 13 to October 23, 1995.


Business History Links

American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation
February 22, 1988 - group of nine executives founded organization to to preserve the heritage of the furniture industry and to honor its leaders. As an international, industry-wide organization, our mission is to research, collect and preserve our cultural, economic and artistic history.

Design Addict                                                                                                  

This "portal for design lovers" and collectors provides images and information about 20th-21st century household objects and their designers and manufacturers. Searchable, or browsable by designer, producer, or by object period (back to 1920), function, or material. Also includes information about exhibits, a discussion forum, advertisements, and links to related sites. Subjects: Designers; House furnishings; Design.


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