StickleyBy Mark Chervenka
Arts and Crafts Furniture
The name "Stickley" has appeared on American furniture for over one hundred years. The present furniture company using the name of Stickley has made virtually exact replicas of original Stickley Arts and Craft designs. This article will briefly describe recent production, list a history of Stickley marks and compare some typical new and old pieces.
Stickley is the last name of five brothers--Gustav, Leopold, John George, Albert and Charles--who began a furniture company in New York in the mid 1880's (see chart below). Gustav, Leopold and J. George were a leading force in spreading the Arts and Crafts style in America. Gustav was the most dedicated to the ideals of the Arts and Crafts movement and published a magazine in addition to making furniture and related Arts and Crafts products under his own name.
As public taste changed over the years, however, Gustav failed to update his designs and his business failed commercially. Leopold and J. G. were more practical and adapted their furniture to changing styles and were more of a commercial success.
The number of furniture businesses that involved the Stickley name can easily confuse buyers who are not familiar with the various marks. You may read an auction report of a "Stickley chest of drawers" selling for thousands of dollars and incorrectly conclude that all chests of drawers with any Stickley mark are in that price range (generally, Gustav Stickley pieces are the most valuable). Or you may confuse a recent Stickley mark with an earlier mark and think a piece is much older than it really is. The marks of the more important Stickley businesses are shown below. Marks were applied in several ways including stamping with ink, burning in with a hot iron and attaching paper, leather and metal tags.
While the new Stickley Arts and Crafts furniture is certainly not cheap, new pieces are still far less expensive than the originals. An original Gustav Stickley bow arm chair, for example, sold for $6500 at a Treadway/Toomey auction in May, 1994. The same style new Stickley chair was quoted at $1,260 around the same time period (choice of upholstery can increase cost up to $1,450). An original Gustav Stickley spindled armchair sold at the same Treadway/Toomey auction for $4,250. A new spindle chair of the same design cost $900 in the mid-1990s.
To the inexpert eye, new Stickley furniture is virtually identical to earlier vintage pieces. All pieces are hand made of high quality wood such as quarter-sawn white oak and are constructed with complex joints such as keyed tenons and blind dovetails. Of the five colors of new finish offered, two are very light in color and obviously modern; three copy the look of earlier vintage pieces. The majority of the new pieces are the same shape as old. Some shapes, like the entertainment centers, were never made originally.
A chronological list of new and old Stickley marks
Marks are not shown in scale; marks vary in size. Other marks and variations on the marks shown also exist. Marks may appear stamped in ink, burned in or on a paper, leather or metal tag. More than one mark may appear on the same piece. The Stickley Oval mark was phased out in 2007. A simple, block styled lettering that reads only Stickley began in 2007 and continues to the present along with the Stickley Mission Medallion.