Did Henkels Produce Laminated Furniture?

by John Werry on January 9, 2010

Some text accompanying a recent auction ad caught my eye that had made reference to a laminated Rosewood parlor set that would be part of the upcoming sale.  I had seen the pattern many times before (as any a long-time Victorian (Rococo) collector has) and am familiar with its usual attribution to George Henkels as being the maker.  What caught my eye was that the auction house was thinking otherwise – that it was made by Alexander Roux and had long been falsely attributed to Henkels of Philadelphia.

I contacted Adam Lambert (no, I don’t believe he is the one from American Idol unless the famous singer now has a side job) from Crescent City Auction Gallery to get their thinking on the attribution that was mentioned in the advertisement:321 e1263050818677 Did Henkels Produce Laminated Furniture?

Welcome to the great debate in New Orleans that is like the Hatfields and McCoys.  Our experts on American furniture believe that this set was falsely attributed to Henkles [sic] early.  Two specific things about the set have our experts insist that it is Roux and not Henkles.  The first is that this pattern is similar to the Bird Pattern done by Roux, and unlike any proven examples from Henkles.  The second, and probably the most important fact is that there is no record of Henkels ever making laminated furniture.

In Dubrow’s book, this actual set is attributed to Henkles.  This was an attribution made from an Auction House in New Orleans, and is believed by our New Orleans experts to be incorrect.  Again, not everyone here agrees, but present day reasoning leads people to believe that it is Roux.  Hope that this answers some questions.


Here’s an excerpt from Victorian Details that I sent back to Adam which introduces a third maker, Ignatius Lutz, who HAS worked in laminated Rosewood.  It also references similar labeled Henkels furniture:

Image 0002 Did Henkels Produce Laminated Furniture?
Here is the aforementioned Alexander Roux bird pattern sofa from the 1853 Crystal Palace Exhibition. I personally don’t see an adequate resemblance to the “Henkels” set to assert a Roux attribution but maybe I’m missing something.

Alexander Roux Sofa Did Henkels Produce Laminated Furniture?

Adam points out that Henkels didn’t work in laminated Rosewood and I believe that is true to our best knowledge today.   If that is the case then, who did make the “Henkels” set?

Crescent City Auction Gallery’s sale of the above suite and several other Victorian lots will occur on January 17th.  More from Adam on the sale:

On a side note, we have a couple lots that you may be interested in viewing on our website: Lot 352, a Rosewood Double door Armoire-probably New York.  Lot 348 Rosewood Double Bed, possibly Thomas Brooks. Lot 333, Centripetal Chair designed by Thomas Warren.  Lastly, Lot 317, Pair Kimbel and Cabus Walnut Armchairs.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

max January 10, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Not having collected this for some time, I did own a higher quality parlor set made of the same manufacture and it had thick laminations similar to Meeks, but less prone to delaminate. The a rose and bird pattern sets had thin laminations and completely different forms if I remember correctly.
Some people attribute the a rose/bird pattern to Roux because the high quality carving and craftsmanship which is certainly warranted.
They were definitely not made by the same firm.

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mario January 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

To date, no documented laminated furniture by Alexander Roux firm has been identified.

In addition, I am not aware of any of this specific pattern of furniture having been documented by a particular furniture maker. The firm of Ignatius Lutz of Philadelphia has been documented to have made laminated mahogany furniture.

Some examples of George J. Henklels’ documented work can be seen in:

“Sloan’s Homestead Architecture, Containing Forty Designs for Villas, Cottages and Farm Houses, with Essays on Style, Construction, Landscape Gardening, and Furniture”,
1861, J. B. Lippincott & Co.

and

“The World of Science, Art, and Industry illustrated from examples in the New-York Exhibition, 1853-54 “,
edited by B. Silliman and C. R. Goodrich,
New York : Putnam, 1854.

Some caution still must be used, because Mr. Henkels (like other firms) imported and sold European furniture-specifically buying unfinished European furniture and finishing and/or upholstering it in his shop.

Some examples of Alexander Roux’s documented work can be seen in the aforementioned “The World of Science, Art, and Industry”

and

“The Architecture of Country Houses: Including Designs for Cottages, and Farm-Houses and Villas, With Remarks on Interiors, Furniture, and the best Modes of Warming and Ventilating”,
Alexander Jackson Downing,
New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1850.

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renaissanceman January 17, 2010 at 11:42 pm

In regards to laminted furniture making. First, its my understanding only Belter received a patent for this type of furniture manufacture. His patent was likely infringed upon by other cabinetmakers who felt laminations would lead to stronger furniture at a lower cost to the consumer. Philadelphia had a long tradition of German carvers who worked in guilds and I believe may have preferred non-laminted tranditional wood carving. Certainly Henkels talks about that in Homestead Architecture as do other Phil. cabinetmakers in newspaper accounts of the period. Virtually all of Henkels documented pieces are solid wood either in rosewood or walnut with bold carving. As noted by another commentor, to date no one has found any information to verify that Alexander Roux ever laminated furniture. Most of the laminated furniture in America appears to have been produced for a short period between circa 1860 and just after the Civil War. I suspect that other smaller furniture makers experimented with laminated furniture, which periodically shows up at auction during this period.

Renaissanceman

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