30 1/2" W x 37 1/2" H x 33 1/2" D
Oak and leather, with round-headed brass tacks
Ca. 1901 - 1905
Attributed to Henry Wilkinson
Gift by Dr. Donald Davidoff and Sue Tarlow to The Craftsman Farms Foundation.
Though Stickley manufactured Morris chairs – the term "Morris" chair evoked the hinged-back armchairs Morris & Company had long been making in England – he sold them using his own terminology. Craftsman catalogs offered "adjustable-back" chairs and "reclining" chairs, but not "Morris" chairs, though that is the popular usage that continues to this day.
Promotional copy for Craftsman Morris chairs often showed them in a domestic, familial light. They were a place of refuge where the tired businessman, surrounded by his family, could find tranquility at the end of his stress-filled day. A March 1907 Craftsman magazine advertisement, however, depicted a spindle-sided Stickley Morris chair and, in something of a departure, the accompanying text said little about its domestic virtues. Instead, it made the point that the chair’s plainness, sturdiness, and candid construction exemplified not only the firm’s honest furniture-making practices but also embodied a set of moral beliefs that were a reliable guide to life. As the advertisement said: "The fundamental purpose of building this chair was to make a piece which should be essentially comfortable, durable, well proportioned and as soundly put together as the best workmanship, tools and materials make possible. What more should a chair be? What more can it be and retain dignity and character? The Craftsman idea is … honest, straightforward … and this is true whether in the making of furniture, the planning of a house, or the entire field of life and work."
And yet despite his firm’s insistence that the Craftsman Morris chair was both a source of homely comfort and a symbol of personal integrity, Stickley, as the writer Bruce Johnson has observed, evidently had only one Morris chair in the log house at Craftsman Farms. Though the Craftsman Morris chair has achieved iconic status today, Stickley is likely to have seen it simply as one of many items in his product line, perhaps choosing a #2341 chair because his factory or retail store had one handy.
Though present-day opinion tends to view this chair as one of Stickley’s lesser Morris chair designs, it has a rakish profile and the appearance of light-weight tensile strength that is visually very appealing. Stickley first cataloged this chair in a set of "retail plates" evidently issued some time between January and June 1901. On the evidence of those "retail plates," this chair and the highly regarded "bow arm" were the first Morris chairs made by his firm. The #2341 does not appear in the catalog "Chips from the Workshops of Gustave Stickley," issued about January 1901, but a photograph of this model does appear in "Chips from the Workshops of the United Crafts," issued that June, thus fixing the date of its introduction to the first half of 1901.
There are two prominent elements of its design – the corbels and the arms - which identify it of as that vintage. Like many other 1901 Stickley pieces, the chair has elongated curved corbels – in this instance beneath its arms - that strengthen the frame and visually evoke a stylized Gothic arch; this is a Stickley motif that has come to be associated with his designer Henry Wilkinson. Interestingly, these corbels are on axis with the chair’s arms and are visible only from the sides; corbels on other Stickley Morris chairs stand at right angles to the arms and can be seen from the front and back. The shapely arms also assign this design its 1901 date. Seen in plan view - from directly overhead – the arms’ front edges form a compact, flattened "V," and their outer edges are cut into an elongated V-form reminiscent of a Tudor arch.
The chair’s most striking visual feature is the suspended rectangle of what Stickley called "heavy saddlery leather." It wraps around the front and back seat rails and supports the loose, separate seat cushion. Expressing the Arts and Crafts ideal of "the beautiful necessity," this leather seat support creates visual enrichment from a functional – and usually concealed – chair component. The colors and textures of this leather are eye-pleasing features by themselves, and they contrast nicely with the chair’s wooden surfaces. This leather is fastened to the seat rails with rows of oversize, round-headed tacks that add their own color and sheen to the chair and catch any shift of light. They also visually harmonize the chair with its immediate neighbors at the south end of the living room: the leather top of the adjacent hexagonal table is edged with similar rows of round-headed tacks, and the rivets joining the fireplace hood have the same round-headed shape. Given his embrace of design unity, these correspondences must have been a conscious gesture made by Stickley as he arranged the furnishings of this room.
The #2341 is an immensely appealing chair, more complex than a casual glance might suggest, and worth the time to study and take pleasure from. Stickley’s firm was still manufacturing it in 1910. But the later chairs lacked the visually arresting leather seat support (it was replaced by a more prosaic drop-in spring cushion) and there were now three vertical slats beneath the arms in place of the original two. These added slats probably made the chair more structurally sound, but this later iteration lacked the verve of the #2341 chair as Stickley’s designers had first conceived it in 1901.
Dimensions: 48" W x 30" H
Materials: oak, chestnut, leather, with round-headed brass tacks
Date: ca. 1905 - 1909
Mark: Red joiner's compass with Gustav Stickley script signature, inside one leg.
Designer: Attributed to Henry Wilkinson or LaMont Warner
Long-term loan by William and Pat Porter to The Craftsman Farms Foundation.
Like the #2341 Morris chair that Stickley placed next to it, the #410 hexagonal library table is a design that evidently dates to the first half of 1901. Its six arched aprons supporting the top and the flaring stacked stretchers joining the legs do not literally match the chair’s curved corbels, but they do relate to them and are evidence that these designs are of the same vintage. Just as Stickley placed his typically 1902 settle and Eastwood chair together at the north end of the log house living room, so he put these two visually related 1901 pieces next to each other at the other end of the room.
This one of the firm’s most satisfying table designs. The hexagonal top dramatically differentiates it from the round or rectangular tops most often seen on Stickley library tables, and its leather covering – a functional, protective feature – adds varied textures and rich colors that contrast with the table’s deep-toned oak. The round-headed brass tacks spaced rhythmically along the tabletop’s outer edges have a slight, lighting-catching sheen and add yet another contract, in this instance with both oak and leather. They also cast subtle, shifting shadows as sunlight moves through the room, and this architectural play of light and shade was one of Stickley’s favorite visual effects. The success of this design is also an outgrowth of its pleasing proportions and its dramatic, revealed construction. The table’s structure is evident, for instance, in the central finial that locks the stacked stretchers together and, because of its faceted shape, it too subtly catches light. The stretchers pierce the legs and end in pronounced tenon and key joints. These joints enhance the table’s structural integrity but they are also visually thrilling, a perfect instance of Stickley’s emphasis on the decorative value of structure.
An interior drawing of his Syracuse house published in the December 1902 issue of The Craftsman shows a hexagonal library table with a leather top. That may be the table later placed in the log house living room. Whether they are the same table or two different examples of the same model, their prominent placement in both his Syracuse and Craftsman Farms living rooms suggest how much this design pleased Stickley’s eye. The hexagonal library table original to Craftsman Farms is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
36" W x 37" H x 31 1/2" D
Date: Ca 1912
Mark: Burned-in joiner’s compass
Designer: Attributed to LaMont Warner
Gift by Paul Fiore to The Craftsman Farms Foundation
In 1972, when Robert Judson Clark interviewed Stickley’s oldest daughter, Barbara Wiles, she said her father "read all the while," favoring art books and biographies. It is tempting to think that Stickley retreated to the capacious embrace of his Eastwood chair at the north end of the log house living room to do that reading, but we can only guess whether that was true. Still, he seems to have had an Eastwood chair in his Syracuse home as well as at Craftsman Farms, enough evidence to suggest that he favored this design. The present example is not original to the house.
This forthright, out-sized armchair is an emphatically self-confident American product, but its roots lie in a diminutive British armchair that appeared in a 1901 catalog of furniture designed by the architect M. H. Baillie Scott. Yet Stickley’s designers re-imagined the scale and structure and functional qualities of that chair so thoroughly that they made it wholly a Craftsman product. The Eastwood chair was first made in late 1901, but its massiveness and rectilinearity have little in common with many Stickley pieces produced that year and instead point the way to the 1902 designs that mark the high point of Craftsman furniture production. Given Stickley’s superb eye for visually harmonious forms, it is not surprising that he placed his Eastwood chair in the log house living room next to a substantial, largely rectilinear, and evidently one-of-a-kind oak and leather-upholstered settle, a design typical of his best 1902 furniture.
Its visual refinements are few. It does have, however, inverted V-form arches that span the undersides of the arms as well as light catching "clipped corners" at the arms’ front ends.
The bowed, horizontal back slats elegantly angle into the rear stiles, but the back cushion hides this subtle detail.
The Eastwood chair has little articulated joinery. The front legs are mortised through the arms, but otherwise there are no revealed tenons. The mortise and tenon joints that fasten the legs to the stretchers are hidden, though they are locked together with visible dowels that punctuate the surface. But there are none of Stickley’s favored tenon-and-key joints and, except for those on the arms, there are no revealed tenons standing proud of any wooden surface of this chair. Yet the Eastwood chair in its entirety is an expression of pure structure: strong, over scale oak planks arranged into straight horizontal and vertical lines. It may be first and foremost a chair meant for comfort, but it is also a powerful composition of rectangles, and the size and shape and interrelationship of its rectangular solids and voids create a visually satisfying composition. Though to some eyes the Eastwood chair is too big and boxy, its design manages to be both viscerally satisfying and highly sophisticated.
93 1/2" W x 29 3/4" H x 36 1/2" D
Materials: Elm with copper hardware
Date: Ca. 1902 - 1903
Anonymous gift to The Craftsman Farms Foundation.
In 1904, Irene Sargent wrote an unsigned essay about the Syracuse Craftsman Building, where the Stickley firm had its offices, design studio, and metal and textile workshops. Her essay appeared in a promotional booklet, titled "What is Wrought in The Craftsman Workshops," and included photographs of several of this building’s rooms. One of the photographs showed The Craftsman magazine’s "principal editorial room," and Sargent described its furnishings, mentioning "simple bookcases and high-backed settles," and then telling readers that "a large library table, with its accompanying armchairs, occupies much of the floor space, which is covered with a deep green Donegal rug."
About six years later, Stickley took some of this furniture to Craftsman Farms. The editorial room bookcase, made of elm, a wood Stickley’s firm rarely used, went into the log house dining room, and is now owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The settle was placed in front of the fireplace at the north end of the living room; its present whereabouts are unknown, and a replica fills that space today. The Donegal rug pointed out by Sargent is probably also lost; it has not so far been possible to identify it from the photograph in "What is Wrought in The Craftsman Workshops." But the one-of-a-kind "large library table," stained green and, like the bookcase, made of elm, was placed in the log house living room and may be seen there today.
This big table - nearly eight feet long - has three drawers on either side, making it a functional "partners’ desk," where more than one person can work at a time. Its massiveness, the oval copper handles on its drawers, and the resolutely straight-lined planks that it is made of are the hallmarks of furniture Stickley made in 1902 and early 1903. Yet there are 1901 Stickley traits here too. The long, curved corbels that brace the legs are similar to the corbels on the #2341 Morris chair at the south end of the living room. The rounded, shaped tenon ends that pierce the legs are very like those on the hexagonal library table, also at the south end of this room. But perhaps its color is what makes this table so noteworthy. Stained green, it originally stood on a green Donegal carpet in the Craftsman Building’s editorial room. At Craftsman Farms, a mostly green patterned Craftsman drugget rug was on the floor beneath it. And the large oil lamp that Stickley placed on the table’s top had a green-glazed Grueby base. Revealed structure and good proportion are key elements of Stickley’s visual vocabulary, but color and color harmony are every bit as important. It is worth noting that when the foundation took possession of the table it was a more typically “warm brown” Craftsman finish. During restoration of the table the hardware was removed and under it was the original green color, probably an aniline stain altered by exposure to the sun over a long time. The original hardware had been smaller, too. At some point Stickley replaced that hardware with larger escutcheons.
Dimensions: 62 1/2" W x 57" H x 29" D
Materials: Oak with inlays of pewter, oak and tinted woods
Works: Serial number 37370. Works manufactured by the Everett Piano Company, Boston
Inlay panels and marquetry band: Made by the firm of George H. Jones, New York City
Date: ca. 1905 - 1906
Designer: Harvey Ellis
Gift by Paul Fiore to The Craftsman Farms Foundation.
Apparently the first piano built by Stickley’s firm was the one photographed for the October 1903 issue of The Craftsman. Certainly designed by Harvey Ellis, it had an elegant rectilinear case of dark fumed oak. The flat surface above the keyboard had a central music rack flanked by inlaid rectangular panels.
These decorative panels consisted of a stylized plant stem rising through an oval motif and terminating in a bright spot of color, a "blossom." The blossom was placed within a small rectangle bisected by a line of string inlay that formed a larger rectangle; this is a visually satisfying unifying motif, with the two inlaid rectangles repeating the shape of the panels they are set into. The surface below the keyboard was a gridded panel. Its horizontal and vertical lines were echoed in the laths of the music rack as well as in the rectangular decorative channels cut into the front and sides of the case. At the top of the case, there was a shaped and beveled cornice surmounting a line of applied dentil molding.
Stickley took this first piano home to his Columbus Avenue house, and later, when the family left Syracuse to move to New Jersey, it went into the girls’ bedroom at Craftsman Farms. It was inherited by his second daughter, Mildred, and remains with her descendants. This piano has eighty-five keys and two pedals, and its work are by Carl Rhönisch, a German firm that also manufactured works for pianos designed by M. H. Baillie Scott. A replica of this piano case, made in 2003 by Mitchell Andrus is now in the girls’ bedroom.
The piano originally in the log house living room is now lost, though it was similar to other Craftsman pianos now known. They have eighty-eight keys, three pedals, and works made either by Vose & Son, Boston, or, like the present example, by the Everett Piano Company. The cases of these pianos are slightly different from the first piano. Instead of a separate music rack, for instance, they have a gridded panel above the keyboard, and their feet are made of heavier, more substantial boards. These minimum variations aside, the cases remained essentially unchanged for the remaining ten or so years that inlaid Craftsman pianos were made. Including the piano now at Craftsman Farms, there are perhaps six examples of this rare model known today.
Though The Craftsman magazine often published Craftsman interiors that included the firm’s pianos, Stickley’s catalogs rarely showed them. A drawing of a Craftsman piano appeared in the booklet "Chips from the Craftsman Workshops" (1907), and photographs were published in the catalogs "Some Chips from the Craftsman Workshops" (1909) and "Craftsman Furnishings for the Home (1912). The promotional copy in these two catalogs sheds light on the rarity of Craftsman pianos today. According to the 1909 catalog: "We have one of the pianos on exhibition in our New York showrooms and one in Boston, and will gladly furnish by mail any particulars concerning them." This is evidence that the firm made samples for retail display and did not keep pianos in stock. The 1912 catalog offered the piano without inlay, saying, "we find that many people do not wish to buy a piano as expensive as our original design, and others would prefer the piano case simpler, without the decorative inlay in wood." The price of the piano without inlay was $450 and the inlaid version – its price not given in either catalog – would have sold for more. $450 amounted to a considerable outlay in an era when many middle class families were living on incomes of about $1,000 to $1,500 a year. With or without inlay, the handsome Craftsman piano was evidently too high-priced for Stickley’s middle-class customers and it is likely that few were made.