A Gustav Stickley Umbrella Stand Mystery

I received an email this week from an Arts & Crafts collector who has a Gustav Stickley oak umbrella stand that is missing its metal drip pan in the bottom.

“Some years ago,” Andrew wrote, “I purchased from a local antiques ship an umbrella stand with an original dark finish, but minus the pan.” He then asked for help in getting “a good picture of what the copper pan would look like in and out of the stand… in my effort to have a new pan fabricated.”

As it happened, I have the same style of umbrella stand here in my office. Mine, however, had been refinished when I bought it, but it did have its metal drip pan. It was a simple matter to pop it out, place it on the railing on my deck and snap a couple of pictures to email to him. In my email I did indicate, however, that my tray, which appeared to be original, was not copper. Instead, it was constructed from a thin sheet of steel and painted a color that looked somewhat copper-ish. Just to make sure, I pulled a magnet off my frig and held it against the metal pan. It stuck, confirming that beneath the paint there was steel, not copper.

Andrew replied, “I am surprised to find that the pan itself is painted to look like copper. If indeed the paint is original, it would seem to run counter to a ‘truth of materials’ philosophy. I actually find fascinating these sorts of examples of how Stickley and other Arts and Crafts manufacturers, designers and architects navigated between the ideals of the movement and the contrary realities of getting things made to a budget.”

Andrew’s email prompted me to grab one of my Turn Of The Century reprints of catalogs Gustav Stickley had published in 1904, 1907 and again in 1912. There I found the original description for umbrella stand model #55, including the “copper pan.”

So, now I am wondering: Did Gustav Stickley knowingly substitute a less-expensive painted sheet metal pan for what his catalog advertised as a “copper pan,” or is my painted sheet metal pan a later replacement?

Those of you who have a model #55 Gustav Stickley umbrella stand have the answer.

Please email me and let me know whether the metal pan in your umbrella stand is copper or steel. If it is painted, use a magnet to determine if it is copper (to which a magnet will not stick) or if it is steel.

And if it is steel, then Andrew has to face the same dilemma as Gus: does he have one made from copper (as advertised) or from steel painted to look like copper?

Ideals versus Reality.


– Bruce

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