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A Trip Through Time: Grand Rapids Furniture History

Grand Rapids, Michigan is one of the most well known places for furniture manufacturing in the United States, and is even referred to as “Furniture City.” The furniture city is known for manufacturing fine furniture and shipping it worldwide. Here at McClure Tables, we are honored to be a part of this city’s fine history, or which woodworking and furniture manufacturing takes up a significant portion. Here’s a brief history of the furniture business in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Berkey & Gay Co. Showroom, 1880 (Source:
Berkey & Gay Co. Showroom, 1880 (Source:

All the way back in 1836, a man named William Haldene traveled from Ohio to Grand Rapids and opened one of the first furniture shops in the city, specializing in cabinets, but he also made chairs, beds, coffins, and tables. The picture below is of a 1840 hoop back armchair accredited to Haldene. The chair currently resides in the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Haldene was honored in 1936 as “Father of the Furniture Industry” by the Grand Rapids Furniture Market, and to this day remains the instigator of Grand Rapids’ furniture industry. In 1876, the first company to send a collection of their furniture eastward was the Berkey & Gay Co. The first shipment they sent was rejected, but Eastern merchants in New York bought the second shipment. This helped establish Grand Rapids’ as a nationwide furniture provider.

1840s hoop back armchair accredited to William Haldene (Source:
1840s hoop back armchair accredited to William Haldene (Source:

Trademarking “Grand Rapids”

In 1902, furniture companies in Grand Rapids began using the name Grand Rapids itself as a trademark, to establish that their furniture was the from the Furniture City, rather than somewhere else. From the newspaper The Evening Press in 1902, this was said of the trademark, “[it] is primarily a protection against inferior furniture which may bear some resemblance to a high grade article… In a word, it protects the legitimate dealer against other furniture that is sold under the reputation made by the members of the Grand Rapids Furniture Association.” Okay, not really a quote, reword and put in the article.  Furniture bearing this trade mark is in a class by itself.”

“The Grand Rapids Furniture Record” trade publication for the Grand Rapids Furniture Association exposed a furniture company in Spokane, Washington for calling it self the “Grand Rapids Cash Furniture Company.” This fraud gave the impression that its furniture was actually made in Grand Rapids.  The Grand Rapids Furniture Association sued several companies in Cleveland for the same trademark fraud, intent on keeping their name in Grand Rapids.

Top Left, The Grand Rapids Furniture Trademark (Source:
Top Left, The Grand Rapids Furniture Trademark (Source:

Notable Names

Ebenezer M. Ball provides us with a close-up look at the furniture industry in Grand Rapids in the 1800s. He teamed up with William Powers and had a very successful company at the time. In one of his letters home he writes, “I expect to be very much drove with business this summer and almost dread the accumulation of labor and care that the steam mill will bing, but I work all the time now and can do no more if we have 40 mills.”

Margaret E. Page (Source:

Margaret E. Page was one of the first female furniture designer in Grand Rapids. Page was trained by many notable designers of the time, like Otto Jiranek and John D. Raab. She opened an office in 1912 and created her own successful business.

Striking Trouble

Things weren’t always easy in The Furniture City. In 1911, employees from many of the furniture, sawmill, and woodworking machinery companies in Grand Rapids walked off the job, striking for better wages and hours. The strike lasted four months, leaving the city at a standstill. After much turmoil, the strikers received what they wanted. This strike not only got better wages and hours for workers, but also forced Grand Rapids to reevaluate its government, resulting in a new formation of the city government.


Grand Rapids has always been known for it’s fine furniture, and in 1876 Grand Rapids was recognized for being the leading furniture manufacturer in the world, and to this day it is still the leading manufacturer of office furniture worldwide. The Grand Rapids Furniture Association created in 1881 was made for purpose of protecting furniture manufacturers and dealers. It insured reasonable rates of transfer in order to protect members. By 1884, there were already 61 wood working firms in Grand Rapids, and 21 of them made furniture exclusively. By 1928 there were 68 furniture manufacturers in Grand Rapids, and the city often refers to itself as “The Furniture Capital of the World.” Some original buildings like the Keebler Building, pictured below, still stand today.

The Keeler Building (Source:
The Keeler Building (Source:

McClure Tables has operated out of Grand Rapids for the last eight years, and we pride ourselves as a family company, hand-making all of our shuffleboard tables and butcher block products. We are honored to be a part of the traditional and modern woodworking and furniture manufacturing that exemplifies the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. We love handcrafting shuffleboard tables, butcher block kitchen islands and gathering blocks, butcher block cutting boards, butcher block chopping blocks, and butcher block countertops. We ship worldwide, but our heart and wood rests in the Furniture City of Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you’re interested in any of our shuffleboards check out our buyer’s guide, or simply browse our selection.

70 replies on “A Trip Through Time: Grand Rapids Furniture History”

It is so cool to see how far furniture and Grand Rapids in general have come. Thank you for highlighting the history of the city. This is a great resource!

Can you tell me where I can go online to get help to identify grand rapids pieces as well as get an estimate on price?

Thank you,

I am not sure we always refer people to the Grand Rapids Museum they have a furniture section on old antique furniture but you may try local antique dealers also

Looking for information on Central Michigan Office Chair Co. My great grand father worked there in the 1940s. I can’t find anything on it.

The Grand Rapids Public Library would be a good place to check. The top floor is dedicated to everything in Grand Rapids history. Lots of books, microfiche, and expert librarians to help you out.

I have a huge butcher block with the name Boot & co. 115 fulton st. grand rapids. is stamped on ot. Just trying to figure out who made it and a age. Thank you for any information.

Susan, We are in Grand Rapids in Jenison I would love to come by and take some pictures of it, are you sure it does not say boos not boot? John Boos is a very large company today in Indiana but at one time was a small shop like our is. One of the things we try to do is use the modern technology of the internet today to connect on a personal level with customers but we actually build things just like they did back in that day. Michigan Butcher Block is also a local company has been around for a long time. It could even they made and stamped with a local company on it. However would not surprise me with all the local furniture manufactures located in Grand Rapids at the time made the one you have. I googled Boot & Co came up with this google book I love the old Google Docs we find a lot of cool information about shuffleboard tables their but you might want to research here

We have finally discovered the maker of a king and queen cane back carved chairs while taking them apart to refinish and reupholstered them. The round blue and white seal under the queen chair says Michigan Chair Company, Grand Rapids, Mich. there is a red triangle stamped GRM and writing I can’t see yet. Penciled in is No. Zero w a / thru it 623, then under the blue line , penciled in is 65-1 and under that a script B or 13? How can I authenticate them. I don’t want to refinish and destroy the value if they belong in a museum for American Furniture. If they are not worth much we need to refinish, reupholster and get them in the house.
My Uncle bought the chairs at a store in Boston in the late 1950’s (I have a picture of them somewhere) he gave them to my father when he purchased a home on Shippan Point, Stamford, Ct . The home was previously owned by relatives of President Johnson, I have pictures of them in that foyer. My mother had instructed the professional upholsterer to replace the seating material and supplied him with the fabric. The backs are weaved cane, the seats, cotton and or sheeps wool, something that looks like coarse hair fibers, springs tied w twine and weaved burlap. They are in rough shape but easily restorable. Any info would be greatly appreciated because they are large and take up allot of space. They need to be used or go somewhere, they are a waste to store.

I have a small sewing notions or table of mahogany. The legs are tapered straight and are 19.5″ long. There is a lidded box on one end 4″x3″ and on the opposite end an open box of the same dimensions. There is an 8x10zx5/8″ slide in board (perhaps for writing) on the front and the handle to pull it out is small , rotates and is brass . The handle to carry this table is cut in decorative oval shape and is the tallest part of the piece. and is functional as a support between the two boxes and is centered on the top. Dimensions are H-28″, W-21-1/2″, and D-12″. On the bottom is a label stating “Fine Arts Furniture Co., Grand Rapids, MI, and the stamped identifying marks of S.M. 732 and also punched number 85. All fasteners are slotted and the unit is assembled by fasteners and probably glue. (The wood appears to be mahogany (possibly Luan) and also a mahogany stain). Do you know what this piece might be? I use it as a night stand/bookcase, but am interested in knowing more about it. Thank you for any information. lyn Neale, Watsonville CA, 03/25/2016 if I can send photos and you would like to see them, please let me know where to send them.

I own a writing desk that has a sticker indicating it was made in Grand Rapids. The sticker also calls the destk a “General Pershing “writing desk and has a short history of the General. I am curious because there is no information, that I can find, on the piece. There are some stories of the General’s efforts to bring stationary and writing utensils to the Troops in WW1 but nothing on this desk. If anyone has information on the piece, I would appreciate a reply.

I’m looking for info on The Greenway Furniture Co. At auction, we found a large roll top desk. We want to find info and year it was made. It also said Grand Rapids, MI on it. Wood carved shell type handles.
Thanks for any info.

Have you found out anything? I just inherited a roll top desk that belonged to my Great Grandfather. Same thing. Carved Shell type handles. I am guessing turn of the century or before. The lock mechanism has Greenway Furniture Mfg, Co, Grand Rapids, MI.

I have an antique table from Big Rapids Furniture Manufacturing Co, Michigan. There is a sticker on it that says License # 7 under patent #2,153,262. There is also writing underneath that says No. 2340 WAL 1137. Just wondering what this table might be worth.

I also have that same table with the same sticker. Please let me know if you find out anything about this table. I am going to email the Grand Rapids Museum.

Have a small end table with the name
Peter Brill. Zealand, MI. Any thoughts on this piece? I know there is a Brill up in Ludington, MI. They say they are not connected to my table

Boy I am not sure I will ask one of our furniture makers in the shop tomorrow we are old but not that old in the mid 50’s. Zealand architecture may know of this person or piece but I would also check with Grand Rapids Museum. They have a real good furniture history section

Hi, I’ve got a lovely tall maple veneer chest of drawers which has a branding on its back “manufactured by the Widdicomb Furnituee company Grand Rapids Michigan” – would you have any idea when it might have been made? Thanks so much for your historical account, so interesting Anne , UK

i was wondering what a dining room table and 6 chair with two leaves from the True Grand Rapids Cabinet Making Certified would be worth. I have the Serial number. I would also like to know if possible what year it was manufactured. Thank you

I’m related to William Thompson Powers and Ebenezer Morris Ball who had the first furiture factory and ware room (sales room) in Grand Rapids in the 1850s. Would like to sit down and talk sometime if you’re in the Grand Rapids area.

Thank you.
Jim Winslow

Hello my name is david culver I am a 4th generation furniture upholsterer. In 1629 my fore father came to America. I am not a branch of the tree but the root. I am studying the styles and quality of furniture made in the late 1800s early 19000s. Before the great fire and the quality of wood then versus now. I was America’s fore most specialist of fine federal furniture upholsterer and one of my achievements was that I did work for the Boston museum of art. I am no beginner. I can be contacted at dovetail upholstery. Earl culver is my grand father

I have a table which my Mother had. It has a metal stamp which says:
True Grand Rapids Cabinet Maker.
Certified 1-8689.
Do you know anything about this. It is a small pedestal table.
Thank you

Please send me your email so I can send you a picture of chairs with your Grand Rapids quality furniture label
They were my grandmas then my mom has had them for 50 years
My grandma bought them New probably in the early 60s 🙂

I have a very ornate dining set and buffet that was made in Grand Rapids. Only half of the sticker on the back of the buffet remains but unfortunately, the name of the company is the part that is missing. The rest of the round, green sticker shows that the last letter in the name is an “N”.

____________N Furniture Co.
________’s Greatest Furniture Store
Grand Rapids, Michigan

I thought it was Hekman’s Furniture but I’m not sure. Does the sticker sound familiar to you? I can send pics of the table, chairs, and buffet if that helps identify the manufacturer. Thank you.

Not really sure but posting here maybe someone else will see it and we can get some help, I always refer everyone to the Grand Rapids Museum They have a lovely furniture history section.

We just purchased some antique furniture. It has Grand Rapids Furniture sticker on it. It is made in the 1920’S per previous ower. We want to know if it’s genuine. How do we find out?

Hi. I have a 6 legged coffee table? It has Townsend mfg co. Stamp on it & zeeland & Grand rapids on the inside of that stamp. On the other side it says 1797 #22. Also is painted a cream color we gold trim. Thank you Patti

I am sorry I wish I knew more about the furniture we get so many post on this blog article and always refer everyone to the Grand Rapids Museum please post feedback if anyone their can help or a contact I will send it along Thanks Todd

I have a small caned rocker. On the bottom there is what is left of a sticker (round) but a bit is missing. Outside of circle in tact reads Chair Company. Grand Rapids Mich, inside circle a sort of pot shape reads ? (Deteriorated) and tables. Under that ?(missing) No________, witten on line by hand in ink 8214 with 12 written in air by top of last # 4. Under that ,piece is missing and then 83. I am wondering how old it is.

hi, I have a hepplewhite styled bow front dresser with Oxford House Grand rapids styled with a castle. I can find any information on this company. I would love any info you could give me

I have a rocking chair with a plaque that reads “Special Furniture Co. Grand Rapids Michigan “. Does anyone remember this furniture store?

I have a rocking chair too with a sticker for “Special Furniture Co Grand Rapids”. I would be interested to know more about the company and find out the year they manufactured it.

I inherited original 1895 stock certificates from the Grand Rapids Table and Chair Company (based in Stanton, MI I believe). Do you know the status of that company? I cannot find anything after 1896.

Hi, I’ve been reading that Betty Ford’s mother Horense Neahr’s family owned a furniture company in Grand Rapids and I was wondering if anyone knew which one it was. Thank you

My wife & I have a 28″ x 20.25″ x 18″ high wooden coffee table with a removable glass top. On the underside is an embossed metal label which reads,
cabinet making
certified (in script/cursive)
I-52094 (the capital letter I; NOT the numeral 1)
Also black-ink-stamped on the bottom in .75″ numerals, the # 2056
And a nearly worn-off black & gold paper label, saying simply,
“made in GRAND RAPIDS”

This table was purchased, probably in the 1930s, by my wife’s parents.

What, if anything can you tell us about it, please.

I wish I knew more about the history of Grand Rapids furniture we often refer people to the local museum they have an excellent display of wood working furniture. I should possible see if can get someone on the museum staff could assist with answer some of these request.

I highly recommend the book Grand Rapids Furniture The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron. It has an excellent index on Grand Rapids furniture companies, their dates of operation , type of products produced and their logos over the years. It was printed in 1998.

Sebastian Seif (1871-1967)was my Great Grand Father and Wood Carver/ Furniture maker in Grand Rapids. At one time I believe his picture hung in the Furniture Museum. Can you offer any information of his work history?

I have inheirited a dining room set my grandmother bought at the Grand Rapids Furniture Show between 1924 and 1928. It supposedly won first prize at the show. Where can I find information on the shows today!

I do not think they have a lot today but check with the Grand Rapids Museum they have a beautiful furniture display section perhaps the curator can answer your questions.

Have a claw feet table with folding leaves. Sticker inside drawer sates “Imperial…Grand Rapids Mich” and a #125. By chance yours?? Thanks,

I have a beautiful ladies desk . The underside of the middle drawer is stamped grand rapids, Zeeland and co. Does anyone know how I could find the value f the desk?

I have a binder catalog for the Pine Shops Originals – American Provincial Furniture by American Craftsmen using Native Woods – The Pine Shops Inc. Big Rapids, Mich. I believe it is 1952. Can you tell me anything about that company and its history?

Hello, I have some old furniture that was my grand parents that was made in Grand Rapids. Would you be able to tell me where I might be able to find a replacement brass bail pull? I was hoping there is someplace that sells old parts. Thank you

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