Chapter 2: 1901 - 1910:-- 2:7. Aesthetic Movements That Impact on Amateur Woodworking

Parallel Movements in America's History of the Decorative Arts


For a period of perhaps twenty years, from the early 1890s to the First World War, the first Arts and Crafts Movement flourished in North America, especially on the East Coast and the Old Northwest. Starting roughly as the 1960s blended into the 1970s, the second Arts and Crafts Movement started to "pick up steam" and -- as the first decade of the 21st century closes -- shows no sign of abating. Taken together, these two movements constitute a phenomenon of historic magnitude only rivaled by the parallel existence of the Colonial Revival movement.

Briefly, these two movements can be sorted out by noting the following similarities and contradistinctions:

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, springing from several motives, including a nativistic revulsion to the wave of new immigrants arriving on American shores by the millions, Americans fell in love with old houses and their furnishings. This movement helped launch a passion for historic preservation and restoriation and created a mania for collecting American antiques. Also, this nativistic sentiment inspired the revisionist style of colonial architecture -- the Colonial Revival -- which continues today.

On Colonial Revival, Read More Here: Directory of "Notes" on Colonial Revival Movement

Coincidentally, the Colonial Revival movement's quartet of values -- "utility, truth, naturalness, simplicity" -- were those being promoted by the anti-industrial English Arts & Crafts Movement, both in Britain and America. It was a movement begun in the mid-19th century as a volatile reaction to the impact of the Industrial Revolution on British society. Led by John Ruskin and William Morris, the Arts and Crafts movement rejected shoddy work and wholesale embrace of machine production of consumer goods in favor of handcrafted goods in a native style. By returning to pre-industrial handcrafted quality and truthful design, leaders and followers alike of the Arts & Crafts movement believed that the lives of both designers and consumers would be more wholesome. Like the Colonial Revival folks, adherents to Arts and Crafts were committed to a quartet of values: -- "the useful, the truthful, the natural, and the simple" -- and found inspiration in medieval design.

Basically Americans embraced Arts & Crafts ideals because they, too, were dismayed by industrialism. After the Civil War, production boomed as industry used the manufacturing capacity and transportation developed for the war effort to flood the peacetime market with new consumer products. Machines displaced hand-workers. Young people-including young women--left rural America to work in "the mills." Inventories and period illustrations show that the number of objects in American homes rose abruptly. Yet, consumers complained about the shoddiness of American products. Above all, adherents of Arts and Crafts saw themselves as "tastemakers".

On Arts and Crafts, Read More Here: Directory of "Notes" on the Arts and Crafts Movement in America

Sources: Wendy Kaplan, ed., "The Art That Is Life": The Arts and Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920 Boston: Museum of Fine Arts/Little, Brown and Company, 1987 pages 173-81, 383; William B. Rhoads, "The Colonial Revival and the Arts and Crafts Movement," in Bert Denker, ed., The Substance of Style: New Perspectives on the American Arts and Crafts Movement New York: W. W. Norton, date?; Jean Dunbar, "The Colonial Revival", Early American Homes 31, No 1 February 2000, page 52;



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Along with this Section 7 in each chapter --  "Aesthetic Movements that Impact on Amateur Woodworking" -- as a source of reference I am creating a quick-and-dirty guide to Furniture Styles.)

American furniture makers Gustav Stickley (1858-1952) and Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) espoused the Arts and Crafts version of the simple life as an aid to marketing just as they added symbols of Arts and Crafts construction, like the use of quartered oak and exposed mortise and tenons, so the consumer could easily identify their products.

Their furniture was exhibited at world's fairs and expositions that were important advertising venues. It was featured in the showrooms of retail stores across the United States. Illustrations of their work salted dozens of magazines and books about interior decoration.

They were even recognized in design books decades after their style was no longer popular.

In contrast, [Charles Rohlfs, William L Price at Rose Valley] Byrdcliffe furniture enjoyed no such fashion. A survey of hundreds of turn-of- the-century shelter and design periodicals and dozens of books about domestic design and taste turns up not a single reference to the furniture of Byrdcliffe.

Yet decades later, as we examine the Arts and Crafts movement, this ignored group of furniture provides much important information about decorative arts at the turn of the century, in particular the melding of the British and American versions of the Arts and Crafts movement as it happened at Byrdcliffe.

Source: Robert Edwards "Brydcliffe Furniture: Imagination Versus Reality", in  Nancy E. Green, ed., Byrdcliffe: An American Arts and Crafts Colony Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004,  page 74 The aesthetic tastes of decade;  prevailing popularity of arts and crafts design, very much reflected in woodworker's manuals, especially manuals designed for classroom use.

Impact of Arts and Crafts Movement.

Click here for background on the A&C movement.  Also look at this piece, Document 6: a 1904 article, "The Signififcan of the Arts and Crafts Movement for Woodworking"

According to the index to the Grand Rapids Furniture Record, the first mention of Arts and Crafts in GRFR is April 1, 1902 – the article is on page 4 -- while the latest mention is 1921, but there is only one article recorded for the year, and the next to last article is 1916, while from 1914 tracing back to 1902, there is roughly 5-6 articles per year. (At the turn of the 20th century, Grand Rapids, Michigan, is the "Furniture Manufacturing Capitol of America".)

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