William Koelle, Philadelphia Maker’s Label

by John Werry on November 22, 2010

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One of my first late-19th century table purchases was a real beater, but I bought it because at the time I felt it was probably a table by Merklen Brothers.  I thought that I’d get around to repairing and refinishing it as I did with this other Merklen.  Repairing this one, however, would cost way more (in my time spent or money for a pro) than the table is even worth, but hey, I had my first “Merklen”.  The “Merklen traits” of the table include the extensive spiral work as well as the brass claw feet with wooden balls.

I keep forgetting that the table retains it’s original label, above.  I will probably never know if William Koelle made the table or just resold it, as he was a retailer as well as manufacturer.   Since William’s location in Philadelphia is a short way away from New York, it is not out of the question that he resold Merklen furniture.  Since component parts (the feet) and spiral machinery were readily available at the time, his shop could been the one to manufacture it.

Nonetheless, I thought that I’d pass on the name of yet another long-lost furniture manufacturer.  Without labels such as these, we’d probably never remember these cabinetmakers ever again, and stick to our short list of manufacturers for attribution purposes.  What we know today of these makers is just a tip of a very big iceberg.

Here’s an excerpt from a Google books’ scan of Boyd’s Blue Book, ca. 1894.  I learned a new decorative arts term today, below, “escritoires“.

One of the lending uptown furniture and upholstery establishments, is that of William Koelle, 1209 Girard Avenue, established 1877. Mr. Koelle keeps the sort of stock that is a pleasure to the judicious and tasteful buyer, who prefers not to have to search for what he wants through a heterogeneous mass of unattractive material. Though lure the collection of furniture amid bric-a-brac is a diversified one, it is select and marked throughout with excellent taste. Special effort has been made for years to present a complete line of suitable holiday gifts, and this year’s surpasses any previously shown. China, cabinets range from $15 to $175. escritoires from $10 to $105, and there are parlor cabinets, divans, dressing tables, chiffoniers, musical chairs, that play when sat upon, marquetry, rockers and tables, electrical musical smokers’ tables, and an assortment of bric-a-brac, lamps, &c. People who visit this store for the first time frequently express surprise at the high order of taste everywhere displayed, and indeed this is a great feature of Mr.Koelle’s business .  The store remains open in the evening till 10 o’clock.

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