Gustav Stickley’s First Magazine Stand
In July of 1900, at the Grand Rapids Furniture Market, Gustav Stickley and younger brother Leopold introduced their new line of “novelty” furniture before a skeptical public. By week’s end the show had not gone well for the two Stickley brothers, as their only major sale were several pieces of furniture to a writer from East Aurora, who asked that they be shipped back to his office at the Roycroft Press.
Toward the end of the show, however, George Clingman, the general manager for the behemoth Tobey Furniture Company of Chicago, surprised the two men with an amazing order for 800 pieces of furniture. Clingman saw the glimmer of a new style of furniture in Gustav Stickley’s booth, a style that a year later would be known as American Arts and Crafts.
Clingman and Gustav Stickley apparently never got along very well. Stickley may have been envious of Clingman’s success at the Tobey Furniture Company, and may also have been miffed when Clingman later failed to even mention Gustav Stickley’s name in the 1900 furniture catalog unveiling 62 of Stickley’s new designs. Years later, Clingman and Stickley even squabbled over which of them deserved credit for the new style of furniture, a claim each man seems to have exaggerated.
Of the 800 pieces which Clingman ordered from Gustav Stickley, the greatest number appear to have been one particular magazine stand: No. 3500, a Chalet Magazine Cabinet in “Weathered Oak.” Examples of this four-shelf, 43″ high magazine stand surface at nearly every major Arts and Crafts auction and show, including three at the Grove Park Inn show last February. While no example is believed to have surfaced with any shopmark, examples are easy to identify by comparison to the one pictured in the 1900 New Furniture Catalog.
In the introduction to the New Furniture Catalog, Clingman stated that some of the furniture displays “…incut carving after what is known as the Nancy method. The Nancy school has something from nature, a flower or a leaf, as its motive, and all the carving is in bold lines….”
Astute collectors have noticed that the design of the carvings in the sides of the Chalet Magazine Cabinet changed at some point in time in late 1900. The example pictured in the New Furniture Catalog has a long-stemmed plant featuring leaves in a closed, rounded position. Many known examples of the Chalet Magazine Cabinet, however, display a similar long-stemmed plant, but with four outstretched leaves opening beneath a pointed stem (pictured).
In addition, the version with the closed leaves generally has 9-12 tacks on the three upper shelves, whereas the version with the open leaves has only five brass tacks per shelf. Collectors consider the ‘closed leaves’ model with 9-12 tacks spaced closely together to be the earlier version, while the ‘open leaves’ and five tacks stand is considered later, although all examples are believed to have been made between July 1900 and February of 1901.
And for whatever reason, auction houses have begun calling the Chalet Magazine Cabinet the “Tree of Life” magazine stand, although there is no published historical basis for attaching this name to Stickley’s Chalet Magazine Cabinet.
As a footnote, in an almost eerie prediction, George Clingman wrote in 1900 of this new style, “It is but a beginning – the first slight harvest in this new field of furniture. Now that it has met with success, nothing will hinder its development.”
– Bruce Johnson