Document 18: N C Brown From Handmade to Mass-Produced Furniture 1952



Sept 3-13,1952 CHICAGO, ILLINOIS
Compliments of

WASHINGTON, D. C. From Handmade to Mass-Produced Wood Furniture N. C. Brown
Importance of the Furniture Industry
Furniture, because of its long history, intimate association with daily living and personal comfort, enjoys a position of human interest transcending that of any other product of our expanding machine age. Its use and manufacture over the past century indeed have symbolized and mirrored the mechanical developments and industrial progress of this country. Throughout this century, we have witnessed many changes in structural design, attractiveness, use of varied woods, manufacturing and assembling methods, and in volume of output in step with our expanding population and national income. This past century has progressively produced better designed, more durably built and certainly more attractive furniture than the general public has ever heretofore been able to own and enjoy.
American inventive and mechanical genius has contributed in no small part to the panorama of events from the artistic master craftsmen who took such personal pride in the hand-made furniture of 1850 to the precision made and mass produced but altogether better, more usable and universally enjoyable furniture of 1950. Just take a look in some of the 1,400,000 homes built in 1950 to visualize the comfortable, livable and attractive furniture that graces our living, bed and dining rooms as well as our kitchens, dinettes, dens, studies and libraries.

The furniture business is a 2 billion dollar industry—and today it represents about 3 times the values of 1939 and involving some 2 billion hoard feet of lumber.


Starting in 1850 with a few small shops employing from 5 to 10 men or more mostly located in the eastern states, the annual production of furniture reached a total of only a few million dollars. In 1950 the leading states in values of wood household furniture (not including upholstered or other household furniture) were as follows: Including all household furniture and bedding products, the total value in 1950 was $2,144,000,000.

The 535 largest producers of furniture in 1950 had each an annual value of shipments of one million dollars or more. The total number of plants was 3,343. Hardwoods constitute about 80% and softwoods 20% of the total volume of wood used. A relatively new industry that has come actively in the furniture industry, especially during the past 20 years, has been hardwood dimension, of which more than 350 million hoard feet or its equivalent are annually consumed.
Classification of Materials

There are several classifications of furniture as to materials used, including wood, metals, fiber, plastics, etc. There are also classifications as to use. The principal uses of furniture may be classified as follows. About 80% of all furniture is for household purposes and classified as such. Wood comprises about 88% to 90% of all materials used for household furniture. Therefore this paper deals principally with living room and library types, which comprise more than 33% of all household furniture; bedroom types which comprise about 20%; dining room pieces, 10%; kitchen types, 4%; porch, lawn, camp and hall types, 2%; and the balance of 31%. These are based on sales values F.O.B. factory.

Status of the Furniture Industry in 1850

The fundamental expression of art in the manufacture of furniture as we knew it in 1850 was developed by a series of notable master craftsmen in England in the last half of the 18th century. In chronological sequence these names stand out: Thomas Chippendale, 1718-1779; Robert Adam, 1728-1792 and his brothers; George Hepplewhite, 1720-1786, and his helping wife, Alice; and finally Thomas Sheraton, 1751-1806. Each of these masters has enjoyed an enthusiastic following and left an imprint on modern reproductions and styles.
Most of these names antedated the development of the distinguished early American masters but they, nevertheless, exerted a great and fundamental influence on what are now prized as antiques of the finest excellence of the art of furniture manufacture. Some of the early American masters, such as John Goddard, Jonathan Gostelowe, Matthew Egerton and his son, and notably Duncan Phyfe, who died in 1854, set the pattern for the foundations of the great American furniture industry. Philadelphia and vicinity probably turned out more of the early and recognized masters than any other center, although New England, New York and many sections of the South, notably Charleston, played important parts.
A poor immigrant boy, Duncan Phyfe, quickly became recognized while still in his 30's as a genius in design, a truly great artist and a successful business man. Contrasted with some more recent furniture manufacturers, he did not sell his product too cheaply. He continued his love of furniture making to an advanced age, dying at 86 and having amassed an estate of more than a half million dollars —a really great fortune for those early days. He specialized in the finest quality of Santo Domingan and Cuban mahogany, and paid as high as a thousand dollars for a single log.

Changes of styles and popular interest in various woods and patterns have distinguished the first 50 years following 1852. Many will recall the Elizabethan types, the garish and rococo designs preceding the "Gay Nineties", and the sturdy Mission oak types that developed about 40 to 50 years ago. Mahogany, walnut and cherry have been the traditional outstanding cabinet woods during the formative years of this past century. They still maintain their high place of quality woods. Each has had its popular vogue and together with maple, birch and red gum, have enjoyed their turn in popular favor for fine furniture.

For the cheaper forms, white pine played an important part, particularly in the formative years of the Pennsylvania Dutch sections. Beech and elm and some other woods have entered prominently in the bentwood and kitchen types of chairs.

From the earliest Colonial time mahogany, already having attained great popularity in England and Continental Europe, was in great favor along the Atlantic Seaboard. Much of our finest early furniture was imported from England. Low cost water transport was an important factor in bringing in mahogany from the West Indies, during the entire 19th century. Concurrently, the local black cherry of New England, New York and the Appalachian Mountains came into great favor as a high grade cabinet and furniture wood. With the western expansion and discovery of the magnificent stands of black walnut in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky and the recognition of its outstanding features of beauty of grain, seasoning qualities, hardness and workability, this wood came into wide-spread popularity for some of the finest examples of art in fine furniture.

These three woods have set the standard for quality products. During the past 50 years hard maple and birch have reached great popularity. The demand for natural finishes has brought in white pine, ponderosa pine, white ash, southern pine, Douglas fir, as well as birch, maple and red gum for many homes, particularly the smaller dwellings of the Cape Cod and ranch types that have been built in such enormous quantities in all parts of the country since 1945.

Woods Used for Furniture

The United States is exceptionally fortunate in possessing a wide variety of woods adaptable to every phase of furniture manufacture. Whether for beautiful effects of veneered or solid wood faces, core stock, bent wood, carving, inlay, etc. from the highest grade quality products to the cheaper varieties of kitchen, lawn, outdoor and porch types and crating.

Every technical property, such as workability, attractive grain and finish, durability, hardness strength, seasoning and finishing properties, machinability, and other specialized features, are found in the woods of the native American forests. These indigenous woods have been amplified by many outstanding exotic woods, chief of which have been the traditional mahogany with many other species such as satinwood, cativo, obeche, Philippine mahogany, teak and ebony.
The latest government figures* [+ WOODS USED IN MANUFACTURE, 1948, by G.P. Merrick, U. S. Forest Service, Washington, ] indicate that in 1948 there was a record consumption of 2,138 million board feet. Of this amount 91% was lumber, 8% veneers or plywood, and 1% in the form of bolts. This compares with 1,364 million board feet in 1928 and only 748 million board feet in 1933. The quantity of wood used for furniture is definitely increasing in spite of the modern practice of using metals, glass, plastics, fibers and others for many furniture items.
These proportions have changed relatively little over a period of 20 years al-though there is some increase in the proportion of veneers used. Moreover, the various species have changed very little during that time. Over a longer period of 100 years, there have been marked changes in the species used, just as there have been important changes in public esteem for period reproductions and the more modernistic and naturalistic forms.

The most important kinds of lumber in order of volume used for furniture in 1948 are shown in the following tables:
Chestnut, yellow poplar, basswood, Philippine mahogany and some of the pines are widely used for core stock. About 15% of lumber used is for crating purposes for which the cheaper woods and lower grades are used.

From the above figures, it is patently obvious that the demands for wood furniture are increasing. These demands are intimately related to:

1. Periods of dwelling construction and activity.
2. Years following depressions and wars.
3. Population increase.
DC 1951
Although wood imports for furniture have increased in recent years and the, are welcome it is believed that with better forest fire protection and improved timber management policies on the part of both governmental and privately-owned timber, the great bulk o wood needed for furniture will confirm( to come from our native America' forests. The percentage of the better grades and larger clear sizes of lumber will decrease with increasing use o second growth timber. But with the increased availability of veneers, the use of Millpak (cuttings from the lower grades of hardwoods), the use of char acter marked woods such as knotty pine pecky cypress, wormy oak and chestnut sapwood interspersed with heartwoods heretofore sometimes regarded as per haps defective or undesirable, there will be sufficient supplies of raw materials Certainly we will have to pay for our lumber what it costs to produce it in the years to come. The Augustinian days of prime virgin timber are gone—and gone forever—in the great hard wood forests of the East.

Wood as a basic raw material is too deeply rooted in the American tradition for any other material to ever seriously displace it. It has so many desirable advantages of warmth in appear mice and to touch, beauty and attractive ness in so many different forms, together: with workability and availability, corn pared with other materials that centuries of intimate living with it have failed to find any satisfactory substitute.

Furthermore, densified or modified wood has come onto the market, super-induced by the strong demands for specialized war purposes, and still later for table and desk tops, chair, table and desk legs, and many other forms of furniture where a hard, dense and durable surface is required. Although not in great volume production as vet, densified forms of wood give much promise for the future. Also compressed chips, sawdust, and hogged material from sawmills and woodworking plants formerly wasted or disposed in burners are being converted into slabs and used for core stock in kitchen and other cabinets, for doors used in furniture, and for other forms as exemplified by "Prespine", developed in Clinton, Iowa; and "Pressed-Wood", in Gardner, Massachusetts.

Advantages of Wood as a Furniture Material

These may be summarized as follows:

1. Wood is available in so many diverse properties, such as color, grain, hardness, workability, bending qualities, strength for weight, etc., to satisfy every demand of the furniture manufacture.

2. It is easily workable by hand or machine and lends itself admirably to shaping, gluing of joints, inlaying, carving, and other aesthetic treatments.
3. It is relatively inexpensive as compared with other materials.

4. Parts may be efficiently joined and held together with various agents such as glues, screws, nails, dowels, and other devices.

5. It is a relatively poor conductor of heat, therefore warm to the touch as well as in appearance.
6. It possesses beauty of figure, color and grain not matched by any other material. These properties lend themselves admirably to a wide variety of finishes which present most attractive appearance in the final forms. Attempts to satisfactorily imitate the color, grain and finish of wood in other materials such as railway sleeping cars, desks, cabinets, etc. have failed in popular esteem. Moreover the natural beauty of wood is enhanced with age, notice-ably in cherry, walnut, and mahogany.

7. A permanent available supply of wood, both from domestic and foreign sources, is assured.

8. A deeply-seated and well-founded tradition in favor of wood which is not easily displaced by new and untried materials.
Limitations in the Use of Wood

When green and during the seasoning process, wood is susceptible to warping, shrinking, twisting, honey-combing, and other features which may degrade it or render it unsuitable for furniture purposes. Even when relatively dry, wood may shrink or swell, depending upon the atmospheric moisture and temperature in which the wood is stored. Most of the problems associated with seasoning wood have been solved through scientific kiln drying. Although wood is a very common and widely used material, it is still little understood by those who may be working with it. After proper kiln drying to a moisture content for proper storage or in the condition in which it will be finally used, all surfaces of wood must be properly treated with protective and adequate finishes.

Changes Due to Growth and Relocation of Industry

Throughout the past century there has been a gradual development from the small handcraft shops making a few pieces of furniture per month to the larger establishment making thousands of finished pieces per month finally to many of our great American plants each producing more than $1,000,000 worth per year. After the Civil War and notably during the period of 1870 to 1890 there was a marked expansion in the furniture business. With the introduction and use of veneers and plywoods, much of our furniture, particularly desks, bedroom suites and tables, were made with fine veneers. Accompanying this came the imitation finishes of mahogany, walnut and some other woods. As the population advanced westward the furniture business gradually moved to the middle west and to the south which were nearer to sources of timber supply, enjoyed lower labor costs and also provided lower transportation costs to markets.

Accompanying these changes from the bulging population and westward expansion of the eighties and the prosperous and gay nineties, there came about a change from the multi-storied factories to one story buildings to avoid the use of elevators and therefore reduce interdepartmental transportation costs about the plant. This type of building also provided for better lighting and ventilation facilities as well as for straight line mass production. Concurrently there has come about a transition of location from the larger to the smaller communities in order to avoid traffic congestion and provide parking facilities during the automobile age of the past 20 years. These changes also provided more and better storage facilities for raw materials as well as for the finished product at lower overhead and rental costs.

Concurrently with these changes came a movement away from the classic designs and artistic beauty of manually made period furniture to the more livable, comfortable and attractive product of the mechanized precision and mass production stages of the present era.
Significant Developments and Achievements

Time and space do not permit details of a century of progress in this paper. Therefore from a long-range perspective, some of the outstanding landmarks of development and achievements in this great industry can be suggested. Some are still in the making. Most of them have characterized the rapid progress made in more recent decades.
With the changing styles and popular demands, women with their keen and intuitive sense of propriety, good taste, and comfort, have had a great influence on the acceptance of the finished product. Their influence in this respect has been more important than the masculine.
Among the many distinctive achievements may be mentioned the following. No small credit must be attributed to persistent and effective research in discovering and developing new and better methods.

1. Kiln Drying. A better knowledge of the technical properties of wood and especially the developments of kiln drying methods of lumber, veneers and dimension forms. Hardwood lumber has traditionally been air seasoned at the sawmills and then kiln dried at the furniture plants. It is well known that kiln drying means more than heating and moistening the air in which lumber is dried. Many defects that have developed in furniture have been due to unsound methods followed in the dry kilns. Moisture content has been studied with better results in not only the manufacture but in the many finishes and durability of furniture in use.

2. Glues. Vastly improved bonding agents, notably since 1930. Particularly with moisture and heat resistant glues. Empirical methods in furniture plants have played an important part in developing adhesives that have met the test of time with various applications and requirements. It is believed with the passing years still better glues will be developed and used. Details of this important phase of furniture making are covered in the paper by Thomas D. Perry. But efficient glues to meet the requirements of various woods, surfaces, moisture content, curves and stresses and strains, have been developed. This has been an outstanding achievement in the furniture industry. One of the methods of using these highly moisture-resistant adhesives has been the multi-opening hot press. This produces a chemical transformation in the resin adhesives and renders them far more moisture resistant than was the case with the older glues which hardened by the evaporation of the solvent.
3. Hardwood Dimension. Hardwood dimension consists of small pieces of hardwoods of varying thickness and length. It is produced from any hard-wood species. The largest production is from red gum followed in popularity by yellow poplar, oak, maple, cotton-wood, and to a lesser extent by ash, birch, beech, tupelo, black gum, black walnut, and mahogany. These arc used chiefly by manufacturers of furniture. There are more than 200 separate products utilizing hardwood dimension. A large share consists of kiln-dried dimension. Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Michigan arc important sources. It is impossible to produce dimension from slabs and edgings under the conditions of high labor and handling costs.

Within recent years, there has been a very progressive and active improvement in the hardwood-dimension industry. The products of this industry offer important advantages in utilization over those of regular hardwood lumber because the users of the finished products receive stock cut to sizes required by them. Therefore, waste is greatly reduced, the production of the finished product is made less expensive, considerable economy results from not shipping defective lumber in the final article, and less space is required in the assembling plant—generally a furniture plant. Furniture plants in some in-stances can increase their production of finished furniture 20 to 30% by purchasing kiln-dried dimension. Also, conservative of our forests is furthered by more intensive and complete utilization.

This industry is often referred to as a "feeder" industry to the furniture manufacturers. It is concentrated largely in the production of furniture parts including kiln-dried rough, semi-machined, and completely machined parts. In particular, the parts made for the furniture industry are largely furniture tops, cores, drawer sides, fronts and backs, bed rails, hardwood upholstered frames, radio and television cabinets and sets. The principal producers of hardwood dimension are organized in the Hardwood Dimension Manufacturers' Association of Louisville, Kentucky. Many members produce specialty kiln-dried furniture dimension lumber, either flat stock or squares, or cut and equalized to furniture manufacturers' specifications.
4. Improved Machinery. The development of precision machines and labor saving devices for high speed and mass production. As with American industry generally, the rising labor costs have seriously embarrassed many furniture manufacturers as well as contributed to the high costs of the finished product. The inventive genius of mechanical engineers in improving machines and methods has contributed greatly to the American furniture industry.
Among these may be mentioned the following distinctive improvements in the design of wood working machinery.
a. The change from poured babbit bearings to high speed roller bearings.
b. The clumsy belt drives have been superseded by individual electric motor drives with frequency changes for speed regulation.

c. The transition from hand tempered carbon steels through the tungsten and molybdenum alloys which are hardened by accurate metallurgical techniques to the modern carbide-tipped cutting tools. This has greatly lengthened the cutting life of the tools between sharpenings.

d. Operating speeds have been increased from about 2000 R.P.M. to over 20,000 R.P.M. on a modern router.
e. Combination machines which incorporate a sequence of automatic steps in machinery.
5. High Frequency Electronic Treatment of Glued Parts. This feature has received great impetus during and since World War II, especially in assembling glider parts such as spars and ribs of air-plane wings. Since the war, the out-standing contribution of electronic gluing has been in the edge bonding of solid panels and core stock in the furniture industry. There are now about 200 installations of this kind and they are constantly increasing. The assembly gluing of case goods, chairs, and other furniture parts is on the increase. This also gives promise of much wider application in the years to come. The assembly of precision machined hardwood dimension parts is a field yet to be applied. However, the inherent advantages of electronic gluing lend themselves to a much wider usage.

At present the initial cost of electronic gluing equipment militates some-what against wider installations especially in the smaller wood furniture shops. However, the savings that may be effected by use of electronic gluing equipment in both materials and man-hours usually more than compensate for the relatively high initial cost.

The advantages of electronic gluing are:
a. Substantial reduction in clamping time under pressure. For example it may require only from 1 to 11/2 minutes for electronic treatment as contrasted with 1/2 hour to 4 hours or more for cold setting.
b. Reduction in number of jigs and fixtures for assembly parts.
c. Greater durability of a heat-cured glue joint over one set at room temperatures.
d. Savings in value of process inventories due to shortening of operating cycles in the factory.
5. Improved Production Management. Better production management is found in furniture manufacture due to the growing and wider range of improvements in techniques. These techniques and methods may be summarized as follows:
a. Streamlined production control systems.
b. Use of standard data for time and cost studies. This is largely a matter of good record keeping.
c. Use of labor saving devices such as jigs, fixtures, and other new mechanical devices.
6. Use of improved tools and machines. An example is the carbide-tipped saws.
There has been a growing emphasis on labor saving methods, including materials handling which directly adds no value per se to the product, but adds up to about one-third of the cost of manufacture. This is one of the logical and more important fields to study, the most productive field in which to make improvements. Altogether, the largest gains have been made in reducing costs in this field. The result of conveyorized yards and rough mills, even to the conveyor handling of both dimension and waste produced, has resulted in lower production costs.

Packaged-handling lumber by lift trucks is an outstanding example of improved handling techniques. Directly related to materials handling is the plant layout problem. Recently constructed plant buildings provide for more efficient lay-outs in terms of materials handling.


An illustration of this awareness is the establishment of a new course in furniture Management and Salesmanship at the North Carolina State College at Raleigh. This course is underwritten by the Furniture Foundation which is supported on an assessment basis by the furniture industry of the South.

7. Use of Quality Control Methods. Quality control is the operation of making certain that the products from a factory, mill, or assembly line conform to standards set by the manufacturer's or buyer's specifications. It is the most important phase of production management. Quality control men do not wait for the final inspection of the finished product to discover defects and discard material not up to specifications. They detect defects in the manufacturing process as they occur. Sometimes this is done by constantly sampling parts as they pass through the operation. Serious losses have occurred during the manufacturing processes. In one instance a wooden product was not properly located in the machine; in another a slight alteration in the tooling was necessary. In the third example tool-sharpening habits had to be changed. Many thousands of dollars have been saved in some instances through the reduction of rejected goods which generally takes place on final inspection. In this way, production costs are reduced by detecting, as they occur, improperly manufactured products that fail to conform to specifications. Thus, quality control employs the law of probability in detecting trouble in a production line or manufacturing process before the defective goods accumulate.

In other industries, particularly auto-motive, electrical and aircraft, the techniques of statistical quality control are employed extensively. The woodworking industries are only beginning to use this methodology in an important way. Awareness of the importance of quality control in manufacturing furniture is apparent from many papers and articles written on the subject. However, there has been more written about the subject probably than has been actually introduced and put into effect in many of our furniture plants. The reason is that the industry doesn't have properly trained quality control analysts to implement an industry-wide program. The statistical methodology is perhaps the most useful tool for controlling quality. Its. use will be eventually forced upon the furniture industry due to severe competition both from inside and out-side the industry. The manufacturers are, in general, not asking for further development of statistical techniques applying to woodworking. Rather the relatively little use that is made of it comes about when recently trained men are hired and given opportunity to put their training into effect. The applications are almost unlimited. This holds true of the prospective benefits as well.
8. Functional Design. A more durable, better structurally designed and greatly improved appearance. Engineering, with improved machinery, made it possible for the common man, in fact, about everyone, to enjoy furniture that heretofore was the luxury and enjoyment of the few. Following the principle of better meeting the public demands for more comfortable and attractive furniture in all rooms of the house as well as lawn and porch furniture in keeping with modern living trends and standards, great advances have been made, notably since the last World \Var. The increasing popularity of outdoor living has influenced the design and utility of furniture used in our warmer climates.
9. Densified or Modified Wood. Wood densification is a process of improving wood to make it more useful for specialized purposes. At first, this product was known as improved wood also as modified wood. It consists of filling or closing the voids in the cellular wood structure accompanied by compression under heat. This process adds hardness, increased strength, greater durability, and dimensional stability. In some forms, however, the process reduces toughness, and in all cases it makes the wood much heavier. Compression of wood fibers is generally accompanied by impregnation with phenolic resins and urea resins. By some methods, compression of wood is done without impregnation. Impregnation with phenolic resins is usually in veneer sheets, Ys" thick and laid up with parallel grain direction before pressing. Impregnating thick, solid wood is a very slow process. Variable density may be secured by tapering down the length of alternate layers and pressing to a uniform thickness. In other cases, impregnated veneer layers may be placed outside an assembly when surface hardness and light weight are required; or they may he placed inside where a readily gluable surface is essential. Commercial products are of the resin-impregnated type variously known as Compreg, Pregwood, Pluswood, and, when pressures do not exceed 200 to 500 lb. per sq. in. the product is known as Imprcg. In England, it is known as Jicwood. When various types of paper lavers are used instead of layers of wood veneers the final nrnrhirt is known under various technical and trade names such as Papreg, Consoweld, Formica, Micarta, Panelyte and others. Many kinds of densificd wood and fiber were especially valuable for military equipment during World War II where costs were not considered an important factor. Some of these products have found useful outlets in several branches of the furniture industry, especially table and desk tops, legs, etc.

10. The Small Home. The influence of the increasing number of small and servantless dwellings on the character of furniture. The small rooms of the 4 and 5 room, one-storied home or small apartment built during the past decade require the maximum utility of nearly all types of furniture. This has meant the designing of furniture to better meet the smaller size rooms and at the same time maintain adequate comfort and living facilities. For example, women prefer the maximum drawer space in dressers to the greater convenience of the knee space so prevalent in former years. And Hollywood beds with combination headboard and shelves or chest which give maximum comfort and attractive appearance with minimum space have characterized the recent years.

11. Finish Coatings. This century has witnessed the transition from the shellacs and varnishes derived from natural sources to the chemically developed and compounded synthetic finishes which bring out the natural beauty and figure of wood. These newer finishes have far more permanence than the formerly used materials and can be formulated for quick drying in either gloss, semi-gloss or matte effects.
Chronology of Progress in the Furniture Industry
Some of the noteworthy landmarks in the advance and development of the American furniture industry from 1850 to 1950 may be briefed as follows:
1850—Furniture was hand made in small shops similar to specialized custom shops now found in the large cities.

1850—Annual value of furniture was $15,000,000; 37,000 employees; total population 23 million.


1854—Death of Duncan Phyfe after 86 years devoted largely to service in designing and making furniture of indelible influence.

1860—Furniture production reached an annual value of $25,500,000.

1865—68 Mayo patents for plywood.

1868—Eastlake's book on Hints on household Taste influenced furniture making and trends.

1868-72—Machine made furniture definitely began to displace the hand craftsman.

1870—Veneer lathes came into use although first patent issued earlier (1840).

1876—Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia gave furniture national attention.

1880—Value of furniture output reached $77,845,000.

1880—Grand Rapids, Michigan, and later Jamestown, N. Y., became great furniture centers.

1880—Oak came into popular favor as expanding to the mission types.

1880-90—Romanesque revival and great developments in wood-working machinery.

1883—First plywood desk tops of 5-ply construction and lumber cores.

1888—First furniture factory built in High Point, N. C., increasing to 44 in 1900.

1889—International Paris Exposition revived interest in 18th century product and French influence which continued in the quality furniture field.

1890-98—General use and wide adoption of plywood for furniture.

1895-00—First 5-ply hardwood plywood with lumber cores and figured veneer faces used in furniture.

1900-12—Invention of many mechanized devices to speed up production.

1910—Red gum began to be extensively used, especially by Southern manufacturers, and quickly rose to comprise 60% of medium grade furniture.

1910—Rotary cut Douglas-fir veneer for plywood first produced on West Coast.

1910—U. S. Forest Service established Forest Products Laboratony at Madison, Wisc.

1914—Furniture factories to the number of 3192 reported with value of production $266,000,000, with an annual average of about $80,000.

1917-18—Depression hiatus due to World War I.

1919—Improvements in breakfast room, kitchen nook and dinette furniture became popular, especially in small cottages, bungalows and apartments.

1920—Furniture manufacturers and retailers put on a national "drive" to educate people to desire homes that were more attractive and livable. This was very successful, resulting in the Better Homes Bureau, and wide circulation of magazines devoted to improvement in living surroundings.

1921—Southern Furniture Exposition Building costing $1,200,000 erected in High Point.

1923—Red alder came into prominence as a furniture wood in the Northwest, with about 10 million feet used in Washington and Oregon.

1925-30—Rustic furniture from hickory, oak, redwood, willow, sassafras, ash, etc. came into popularity.

1930—Hardwood Dimension Manufacturers Association founded. This was an important step in providing parts for furniture.

1936—The modern and functional designs became popular as a result of smaller and more restricted living quarters.

1937—Tego film adhesive made avail-able from domestic manufacturers.

1937—United States Plywood Corporation formed, followed by a chain of distributing warehouses from coast to coast.

1939—Molded plywood techniques used industrially for simple and compound curved plywood.

1943-45—Electronic heat applied commercially to cure resin adhesives.

1945-50—Great increase in furniture production due to lack of house construction during war years with tremendous expansion in home building and in the marriages of returning war veterans.

1950—Construction of 1,400,000 homes, a new record resulting in great impetus to furniture manufacture.

1950—Mahogany imports of logs and lumber used largely for furniture reached an all-time high of 84,-696,000 board feet.

1950—Yearly value of furniture output reached more than 2 billion dollars with use of 2,138 million board feet and a record number of more than 3,340 furniture plants. The average annual production rose to about $600,000 per unit.
A Look into the Future

Now to crystal-gaze a hit into the future. This is exceedingly dangerous and there is always someone to say "I told you so!" But the past and present give us some basis as indices of future trends. Among these changes that may come to pass are the following:

1. Labor and transportation costs are not likely to be lowered. They are vitally important considerations in the entire furniture industry picture.

2. Quality lumber, notably the selects and clear grades, will be more difficult to obtain because we arc now cutting almost entirely second growth timber of the Pacific Northwest which does not provide many hard-woods other than alder and a little maple and other species. Therefore lumber costs will continue on a relatively high level. We will have to grow all of our domestic woods for furniture as well as many other products that come from standing timber. Lumber and plywood will cost what it costs to produce them. The products of the logs arc becoming progressively lower in quality and require greater skill for acceptable utilization.

3. We must change, if possible, the popular American demand for clear wood. The writer has seen some excellent furniture, pilasters, and other prominent wood uses in Europe fashioned from knotty Southern pine and other woods. The European forests produce mostly what we would call a #2 common board. In other words it is knotty, but the knots arc small and red and tight and there-fore easily machined and properly finished. Under proper design, these natural growths can be made most attractive as can be noted from highly prized early colonial antique items.


4. We will probably use more and more tropical woods. Mahogany, walnut, cherry, birch and maple will continue as standards of quality and price. But just as we have begun to use obeche, cativas, gaboon or okume, satinwood, prima vera and many other woods, we will probably discover and appreciate the advantages of woods not presently used or perhaps little known, irrespective of their origin.

5. A larger proportion of softwoods will be used than in the past; also more veneers and plywood. Today the proportions of lumber used are about 80% hardwoods and 20% softwoods. In 1928, a survey showed 94% of lumber used was hardwood and 6% softwood.

Future styles, sizes and arrangements will be suited to living conditions. Surely our way of living has changed vitally in the past 25 years. Smaller rooms, more convenient and comfortable furniture with more functional designs and labor-saving devices must be provided to meet the trend toward the smaller home with fewer rooms.

The furniture business seems destined to move in cycles depending upon house building activity and periods of prosperity. When 1,400,000 homes were built in 1950, this meant a tremendous demand for furniture in those homes. With expanding population there appears to be a highly favorable outlook for the future of wood furniture. Our heritage from past generations has been one of attractive and useful furniture. Great improvements have marked the century under review. It is the obligation of this generation to transmit this grand heritage to those who follow after.