Victorian Furniture Makers’ Careers Span Periods

by John Werry on August 2, 2009

Victorian Furniture Makers

Many Victorian furniture cabinetmakers’ careers crossed wide swaths of the Victorian period and thus, adapted to the changes in tastes across those careers.

When we think of John Jellif, we think of the Renaissance Revival furniture even though he retired in 1860 and probably wasn’t there while the majority of that furniture that we’re familiar with was made (Henry Miller ran it from 1860-1890).  We less often think of his Gothic Revival and Rococo Revival furniture.  His career began in the 1830s so he probably made Late Classical furniture as well.

When we think of John Henry Belter, we think of Rococo Revival, but we forget that he was probably doing work in the 1820s in Germany and 1830s in New York.  Rococo Revival was only heating up in America circa 1840.

The image of the sofa table above (courtesy of Carswell Rush Berlin) is a reminder that Alexander Roux, who we know for his Rococo Revival furniture, also made furniture in other styles.  The table was made between 1838 and 1848 (probably closer to the former than the latter) based on the 478 Broadway location in the ink stencil:

478 B-Way

Another example of this diversity in cabinetmakers’ repertoires is this new addition to Southampton Antiques’ inventory, an 1870s faux bamboo dresser made by Pottier & Stymus.  It bears the rare stencil confirming it’s manufacturer.  This style of furniture got hot after the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and it appears that P&S jumped on the bandwagon right away, while R.J. Horner, who is well-known for faux bamboo furniture and who only began working as “R.J. Horner & Co.” in 1886, advertised his bamboo furniture in the 1890s.


Ironically, the furniture produced early-on in cabinetmakers’ careers is often not the “signature” style we know them all for, but at the same time is the most likely to have been actually produced by their own hands.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

zeke August 2, 2009 at 8:46 pm

Great post John,

we should also mention Meeks which made Empire and Gothic furniture and went on to produce Rococo. I think most people think of Meeks as rococo and Belters main competitor.


John Werry August 3, 2009 at 8:33 am

Zeke, and Meeks also did Late Classical. Mitchell & Rammelsberg also did Gothic Revival as did P&S….

Would be a nice chart to produce with the periods across the x axis and makers across the y axis…


monkecmonkedo August 3, 2009 at 6:40 pm

I’ve always thought some people made wild attributions – perhaps they were right all along! I say this is jest…

Great comment about earlier pieces being most likely to have been produced by their own hands. I agree completely but wanted to add that later pieces are more likely to be crafted in the makers vision. To me, that is where the value lies. Take Hunzinger as an example. He produced fairly mundane chairs and rocking chairs early in his career. His later works are what best embody his creativity and inventiveness. I’m sure he never gave so much as an approving nod to the chairs and rockers I have, but they are still his. Unless I’m wrong and George hand stamped each one lovingly as it left the factory. :)

PS – I find it very interesting that Pottier and Stymus would use a Knapp joint on that dresser. I thought a machine made joint was always considered “higher end”. Or am I wrong and it was perceived as technologically more advanced, thus acceptable for P&S?


monkecmonkedo August 3, 2009 at 6:43 pm

Typo above – I meant to say: ” …a hand-cut dovetail joint was always considered “higher end”.”


English Classics August 4, 2009 at 10:34 am

Today, I think hand-cut dovetails are preferable but perhaps 19th century techno-fetishism allowed for machine varieties.

Does anyone know what those small bits at the bottom of the dresser’s feet are? They look like casters but I’ve never seen casters on bun feet before.


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