Overview: The Many Stickley Companies
There were five brothers in the Stickley family, Gustav Stickley, Leopold Stickley, Charles Stickley, Albert Stickley, and John George Stickley. While Gustav Stickley was the oldest and is credited with creating Mission Furniture as a unified style, all five brothers were active in producing Arts & Crafts and Mission Furniture under various trade names and in different partnerships over the years.
For an excellent timeline of all the businesses run by Stickley, pick up a copy of The Stickley Brothers, by Michael Clark and Jill Thomas Clark (see illustration). This book is available new on amazon.com for $25.17 (or about $5 used) and is the best reference guide to the history of the Stickley companies.
The five Stickley brothers were all born in Wisconsin, but they settled in upstate New York and Grand Rapids.
Gustav Stickley formed the Gustav Stickley Company in 1898, United Crafts in 1901, and Craftsman Workshops in 1904. His earliest Arts & Crafts designs were somewhat experimental, with many of them having an Art Nouveau aesthetic, but by 1900 he had simplified and bulked up his designs, and was making furniture in what became known as the Mission style (please see Gustav Stickley 1901-1902 production). He published The Craftsman magazine from 1901-1916 and was the strongest spokesman for the Arts & Crafts movement in America. World War I brought a demand for change along with a nostalgia for Colonial designs. Gustav Stickley was unable to adjust to the times, and went bankrupt in 1915.
Leopold Stickley helped his brother Gustav as foreman in the first years, but in 1902 he formed the Onondaga Shops in Fayetteville, NY with John George Stickley, perhaps with Gustav’s encouragement, as it appears Onondaga Shops took over Gustav’s contracts to produce furniture for Toby Furniture in Chicago, and possibly others. Onondaga Shops name gave way to L&JG Stickley in 1907, marking furniture from 1907-1912 with a decal that read, “Handcraft L&JG Stickley”. In 1912, the furniture signature changed to “The Work of L&JG Stickley”. Leopold and John George were the most successful of the brothers at building a business that would endure: it changed as styles changed, and it still operates in Manlius, NY and makes a reissued line of original Stickley Mission Furniture.
Albert Stickley formed the Stickley Brothers company in Grand Rapids in 1891 with John George Stickley (who left the business in 1902). While it is considered by many to have produced furniture that was derivative of Gustav Stickley’s designs, Grand Rapids was populated with many furniture designers who came from Europe, and Stickley Brothers built some exceptional furniture along European designs, as well as introducing a line of inlaid Arts & Crafts furniture in 1900.
Charles Stickley married into the Brandt family in 1891 and formed the Stickley-Brandt Furniture Company. Of all the Stickley furniture companies formed, this is the only one whose catalogs have never been reprinted, and there is not a lot of documentation on the furniture designs made by the company. The pieces made by Charles Stickley that are held in the highest regard comprise of two parlor sets with massive rectangular front legs and cut outs in the slats of the couch and chairs.
Generally speaking, furniture by Gustav Stickley is considered the most desirable of all Stickley furniture, followed by that of L&JG Stickley, then Stickley Brothers, and finally, Charles Stickley.
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