Document 20: Riding a Hobby Leads to Profit 1937

Was Walter C Cross an amateur woodworker? With the skimpy info from the article pasted below, it is not entirely clear. There is no reference to actual woodworking mentioned, but it is still not difficult to assume that at least part of Cross's hobby included reproducing colonial furniture. Rather than simply dropping the matter there -- the info is too ambiguous -- I will continue to investigate. One thing is clear: if Cross publicized colonial furniture, especially at Colonial Williamsburg, where demonstrations about making furniture in colonial times was an important feature, I can't help but think that at some of the people that Cross met would get the "bug"! Again, I will keep looking. 


[Anonymous] "Riding A Hobby Leads to a  Profit" Furniture Record June 1937, pages 14, 46.


After 17 years as furniture manufacturer's representative and 11 years as-a retailer, Walter C. Cross discovered Williamsburg Restoration and became an enthusiast on- authentic Colonial furniture. What's more, he made everybody in town enthusiastic, too; and he turned a personal  hobby into a business profit.

Colonial furniture, the really authentic reproductions, can pull a surprising amount of profitable business. Take the word of Walter C. Cross of Portsmouth, Va., for that fact. Check the books of the J. C. Crawford Co. of which he is head, if you wish, and the figures
will show how business has gone steadily up since Mr. Cross began what he calls his "Colonial Campaign" a little over a year ago.

It all started with the restoration at Williamsburg, Virginia. [brief coverage in entry on Colonial Revival.]  Mr. Cross went down to look the place over, stayed to get the thrill of a lifetime in looking over authentic Colonial furniture and homes, and came home with a new hobby. From then on Mr. Cross attended lectures on Colonial furniture, read books and visited historical places in Virginia and North Carolina, picking up odd pieces of original Colonial here and there.

And then, after six months it occurred to him that real Colonial furniture type could bring him profits as well as enjoyment. So he decided to open Colonial Galleries and really make the hometown people enthusiastic over the Colonial period. He contacted manufacturers and selected pieces for stock, assisted some of them to obtain original pieces to copy, suggested other types of Colonial pieces he thought he could sell.

With sources of supply lined up, the next task was to sell the idea to his employees. The sales force was loaded on a bus and taken to Williamsburg where Mr. Cross delivered an intensive lecture course on what is and what isn't authentic Colonial. Then. after a choice spot in the store had been made over into the Colonial Galleries,  Mr. Cross brought down his
personal collection of Colonial original pieces, rugs and lamps to display alongside reproductions for sale.

This side-by-side display of authentic originals and faithful replicas, permits the customer to make her own comparisons, convinces her of the correctness of the reproductions, and builds up the prestige of the store as a result.

The Galleries were opened with fanfare. Engraved invitations were sent to regular customers and a newspaper ad reproduced the invitation for the general public. Mr. Cross imported two authorities on Colonial life and furnishings to talk on the evening of the Galleries' opening and hired an old Southern Negro string band to play between lectures:- Employees, receiving visitors, were dressed in Colonial costumes.

The opening promotion proved a topic of local conversation for a week, and revealed to Mr. Cross that even in a small place there were many whose interest in authentic Colonial was keen. Still others -- and among them several women's clubs -- decided that Colonial life was a subject to be studied and requested Mr. Cross for more lectures. This request was filled by chartering a bus once a week to take a group of thirty women at a time, under the eye of a person versed in Colonial lore, to the Williamsburg restoration.

In this way Colonial furniture was "sold" to Portsmouth, and one furniture store was made the local headquarters for all home merchandise of this type.

Of course Mr. Cross's business is not confined to furniture. He sells furnishings, too -- wants to sell more. So he went to as much trouble to select harmonizing lamps and rugs, authentically styled.

After a year of operating the Colonial Galleries total sales volume of the store is up substantially -- considerably more than the average in the district This increase is from the Colonial Galleries and the traffic it attracts to the store.

And although the campaign to launch Colonial furniture in Portsmouth called for much effort and considerable expense Mr. Cross is more than satisfied. He feels that once homeowners gain an appreciation for authentic Colonial pieces they won't be seduced by every new design or fashion variation that comes along. They'll continue to add to their Colonial furnishings piece by piece. A good stock of Colonial will never be subject to profit-eating mark-downs, Mr. Cross is convinced. For in Colonial furniture which faithfully copies originals, pieces that are good today will always be good--and will always be bought by true lovers of fine furniture.