1874 Ornamental Wood Company Catalog

by John Werry on March 24, 2008

Well, I’ve been looking for something like this for quite some time. These are excepts from a 43 page catalog exclusively detailing ornamental wood pieces that furniture makers could purchase to incorporate into their furniture. This catalog is from 1874 for Ornamental Wood Company of Bridgeport, Conn. They are certainly not the only manufacturer of these adornments from the time, so there are still many catalogs yet to be found out there.

Offered for sale in the catalog are doorknobs, shutter knobs, escutcheons, medallions, rosettes, panel ornaments, brackets, leaves, heads, curtain pins, sleeve buttons, jewel boxes, and ornamental buttons for clothing – made “In Natural Woods”.

The above page is one of the most interesting to me since it shows some familiar elements that we’ve all seen adorning furniture we own or see in the market. There are no carved bust furniture arms available in this catalog so I am still looking for a source that supplied some or all of the furniture arms for Jelliff, Schrenkeisen, J.W. Hamburger, and others.

In the images below you will see carved elements that are represented in the Ornamental Wood Company catalog that had been utilized on antique furniture made during the period. The lion head image is from the Herter Brothers bookcase that I previously featured in my blog postings and it is item #58 in the catalog. The top rosette on the bed footboard is from page 16 in the catalog. The female head on the table skirt is one of the heads pictured at the top of this post.

Thanks go out to Steve Rowe, a Rare Victorian reader who received a copy of the original catalog from owner, Mr. Rhett Butler of E.R. Butler and company, New York. Thanks for sharing the images, Steve and thanks to Mr. Butler for having the wisdom to snap up this historic resource.

If any of you have resources or a story to share with Rare Victorian readers, please drop me a line. Thanks to contributors like Steve, we all learn more about this period of furniture-making that we all enjoy.

I would also like to open up the blog to other writers. If you would like to express yourself directly to the Rare Victorian readership and share some Victoriana with us, contact me. As this is a blog and not Time Magazine, we do not have to be professional writers, so don’t be put off by any concerns there. Over time I would like to add additional writers to supplement my postings and provide more content and value to the readers. It will take time, but that is a longer term goal.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

jbkoehn March 24, 2008 at 7:42 pm

These were probably machine carved by carving machines/ duplicators – the quick and affordable way to produce a carving once a “master” carving or template is made (the master/ template doesn’t even have to be wood – it could be plaster, or a casting etc.). Machine carvings have thier limitations on details because of the rotary cuttters and tracing stylus’s diameter. They may have been finished up by hand to add crisp detail. Also FYI: Many moldings (sometimes chair backs too – refered to as pressbacks) that are assumed to have been carved were actually “pressed” – the wood is steamed to soften it, then a metal mold is pressed into it with great mechanical pressure. The depth of the pattern can pressed into a molding is usually limited to 1/8 – 3/16″. Beyond that it will start to crush and break the fibers of the wood. Woodwright


John W March 25, 2008 at 2:55 am

Woodwright. Welcome to the site. I was not aware that duplicators were available back then.

I assume these machines would work on the artificial (name escaping me now) materials as well. I have a bed with these applied “carvings”. While not made of wood, they were probably were made to look so 140 years ago, though today the difference is obvious.


Vaillancourt Antiquities March 25, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Great find, as I read this I had to look at the very chair I was sitting in to verify the presence of something that looks identical to No. 242, next to a bed sporting No. 208 and a shelf with No. 246 – but other items in the house do not match any pictured so I suppose there were other manufacturers of these or I posess the pressed variety as well.

Does anyone know where repros can be purchased, as I have an idea for valances? My clockmaker can order them in metal but only of a diminutive size…


Emeriol March 26, 2008 at 2:08 am

Can you scan more images of the catalog?


1836 April 23, 2008 at 8:20 am

I’ve posted photos of a cabinet with a seemingly identical lion motif in the Forum section (“RE: 1874 Ornamental Wood Company Catalogue”)


Ronnie March 24, 2009 at 8:17 pm

would like to know if you have seen or know about a chaise lounge/fainting chair thats brown leather and has molds on each side of lions laying down with leaves etc. the molds could almost pass as wood carvings however are not. The lions almost look evil! scary looking…I have looked to find anything about this in antique books etc. but have found nothing.


RareVictorian March 24, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Send me photos and I will have a better shot at finding some information for you. info @ rarevictorian.com


stever November 15, 2009 at 11:37 pm


It has been a long time since this original post was made
and it made me uncomfortable enough at that time to respond
to John personally to report its’ innaccuracies. Unfortunately,
upon reading Rare Victorian’s most recent post and its’ link
to this catalogue I have been reminded again that the correction
has not been made.

In John’s post, credit was given to me (Steve Rowe) as being
the owner of this original catalogue. It is true that John and
I shared many very interesting emails regarding the ornamental
catalogue (which prompted me to send him a copy at his
request). However, I am not the owner of this original catalogue
and feel credit should be given where it is due. Mr. Rhett
Butler of E.R. Butler and company, New York, owns the
original and sent me a copy as a gift. Mr. Butler is one of
the leading catalogue collectors in America and probably owns
the most extensive collection in this country. He is a personal
friend of mine and I have requested that he might allow
Rare Victorian to post this catalogue. Mr. Butler’s company
uses these various catalogues in their research to manufacture
superior products in many different fields. I am certain that in due time I will be able to email John with his permission, but for now
we must accept his wishes as he is the owner of this historical find.



John Werry November 17, 2009 at 9:37 am

Thanks for the reminder, Steve. I’ve updated the post above to reflect the correct ownership.


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