During the 1800s, a wave of successive, overlapping revival styles characterized fashionable furniture in Massachusetts and throughout America. more

In the World

  • 1844Introduction of the telegraph
  • 1849California Gold Rush
  • 1861Civil War begins

In Massachusetts

  • 1837Opening of Mount Holyoke College
  • 1845Henry David Thoreau begins living at Walden Pond
  • 1872Great Boston fire

Industry, Innovation, and Tradition

The “Furniture Capital of New England,” 1840-1950

Known as the “Chair City” and “The Furniture Capital of New England,” Gardner, Massachusetts, has a long and important history in furniture production.

The furniture industry in Gardner traces its origins to 1826, when five brothers in the Heywood family began to build furniture in a barn near their father’s farm. The firm grew steadily, and in 1897 became one of the largest in the country when it merged with Cyrus Wakefield’s flourishing wicker furniture operation in South Reading (now Wakefield).”

Gardner was also the home of many other manufacturers, including the Conant-Ball furniture factory and the Nichols & Stone Chair Company, which moved to Gardner at the turn of the twentieth century and flourished for a hundred years.

By 1910 Gardner boasted some twenty chair factories which produced four million chairs per year, making it at that time the eastern equivalent to Grand Rapids, Michigan. In recent years, with the shift of furniture making to the American South and subsequently to Southeast Asia, the factories in Gardner have nearly disappeared.

Selected Bibliography

  • Adamson, Jeremy. American Wicker: Woven Furniture from 1850 to 1930. New York: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, in association with Rizzoli, 1993.
  • Adamson, Jeremy. “The Wakefield Rattan Company.” Antiques 142, no. 1 (August 1992): 214-21.
  • Heywood Brothers and Wakefield Company. Classic Wicker Furniture: The Complete 1898-1899 Catalog. Reprint. New York: Dover Publications, 1992.
  • Scott, Tim. Fine Wicker Furniture, 1870-1930. West Chester, Pa.: Schiffer Publishing, 1990.

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