The Shopmarks of L. & J.G. Stickley

As the youngest of the five famous brothers, Leopold and John George Stickley rotated through the workshops of Gustav, Albert and Charles before deciding by 1902 to open their own small factory in Fayetteville, NY, not far from Syracuse.

Although they had learned the importance of a shopmark from each of their older brothers, their earliest work was left unsigned. Researchers theorize that Leopold and John George were fulfilling Gustav’s contract with the Tobey Furniture Company, which attached its own shopmark to their work.

John George Stickley soon established a reputation as one of the finest furniture salesmen in the country. Leopold, simply called ‘Lee’ by those close to him, was an astute businessman, more intent on growing their business than writing articles, publishing a magazine, running a restaurant or hosting Arts & Crafts exhibitions.

The completion of the contract in 1904 enabled the brothers to begin manufacturing their own line of Arts & Crafts designs. They were signed with either an oval, brown paper label bearing the letter “S” or a rectangular decal containing the name of their business The Onondaga Shops, a reference to the county where they worked.

In 1906 they changed both their name and their shopmark, electing to use a red woodworker’s clamp along with the name “L. & J.G. STICKLEY – HANDCRAFT” (see top photo). Though undocumented, according to family lore Gustav was irritated by the similarity of their red clamp to his red joiner’s compass, as well as the word “Handcraft” to his “Craftsman.”

In 1912, either bowing to pressure from Gustav or sensing confusion on the part of furniture buyers, Leopold and John changed their shopmark radically. In place of the red clamp they opted for a simple red and yellow rectangle reading “THE WORK OF L. & J.G. STICKLEY.” The same wording also appeared on a brand.

This mark remained in use until 1918, when Leopold attempted to form Stickley Associated Cabinetmakers, a reunion of Gustav, Albert, Leopold and John George. He designed a new circular shopmark bearing homage to his bankrupt older brother’s mark, conjoining it along with his former wood clamp, along with both words HANDCRAFT and CRAFTSMAN (lower photo).

Like their first all-brother business, this one also soon splintered apart. Albert returned to Grand Rapids, John died an early death, Gustav retired and Leopold began manufacturing Colonial-inspired furniture of maple and cherry, working until his death in 1957.

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