Furniture Manufacturers In Warren County, PA

The excellent hardwoods and softwoods of Warren County drew settlers who harvested and dressed the lumber and shipped it down river. Artisans, too, came here to use these materials to make furniture for local needs. In 1826, Roger Filer advertised his services as a cabinet maker in the Warren Gazette. The earliest furniture makers probably kept simple chairs and case pieces on hand for sale; they also made fancier pieces to order.

As the area grew and prospered, larger operations appeared. C. W. Shaw’s Furniture Manufactory, “…on the turnpike Warren to Jamestown”, advertised in 1841 that it made “Sideboards, Secretaries, Bureaus, French Lockers, Trundle Beds, Cradles, etc.” These factories probably served only the growing towns in their immediate areas.

The first long-lasting furniture manufacturing company that shipped products to a wide market was established only after the railroad came to the area; from Erie in 1859, connecting south and east by 1866. Energy, first water power and wood, later gas, was abundantly available. Jas. P. Johnson, Furniture Manufacturer, claimed establishment in 1869, although Johnson was first listed in the city directories as a cabinet maker, and did not have a company listed under his own name until 1878. He advertised “Wholesale Manufacturers of Oak Chamber Suits, Warren, PA.” The company existed until taken over by August Karlson in 1916 and reorganized into the Mypenn Furniture Company.

The glory days of wooden furniture manufacturing in Warren lasted from the 1890s through the 1920s. Businessmen and tinkerers ran companies, developed markets, innovated technically and attracted skilled labor. Samuel Peterson’s wooden handle factory at Laurel and Fourth incubated the Warren Chair Works and C. S. Homer’s Warren Table Works. The Newmaker and Reed Planning Mill produced an offshoot in the Phenix Furniture Company.

Support industries-The Warren Veneer and Panel Works, the Warren and Youngsville Mirror Works-developed alongside the main industry. By 1926, almost 30% of manufacturing jobs in Warren County were in the furniture industry. The Warren Furniture Company employed up to 300 people. It made dining room and bedroom furniture, desks and occasional pieces, had a Georgian line in mahogany, a Colonial Dutch line in solid cherry, a “Modernistic” line with silver inlay, and made its own exotic wood plywoods.

The Pickett Extension Table was patented in 1891; there also were Smith and Homer extension tables. By 1911 Amel Sagadahl of the Forest Furniture Company in Youngsville had “...secured a half a dozen new patents…that are much appreciated by manufacturers at large.” In 1917, Peter Colt of the Union Furniture and Novelty Company patented the "20th Century Kar-O-Kid", a screen baby pen on wheels. In 1921, Col. Fred E. Windsor patented the One Handed Clock.

The major companies—Conewango, Warren, Phenix, Youngsville, Crescent, and Paramount—produced suites of bedroom and dining room furniture, solid wood or veneered. In the 1930s Phenix Furniture Company made a salesman’s demonstration cabinet, utilizing all its veneers, hardware and decorative techniques. The accompanying letter compared the quality details favorably against the cheaper techniques used by aggressive competitors in the southern states.

In 1940, Holger Elmquist wrote a graduate thesis on the economy of Warren County during the years from 1926 to 1938. The furniture industry chapter begins: “The wooden furniture industry in the community has generally been considered a sick and dying thing of the last 10 to 12 years.” Residential construction went into recession in 1925, drying up demand for new furniture. The Depression devastated struggling companies. Costs were high, while the selling price of furniture actually declined. By 1920, the Nypenn Furniture Company manufactured its bedroom sets mostly of red gum shipped in from the South. Labor was cheaper in the South. Living quarters got smaller, and customers no longer needed large suites of furniture. The Warren Furniture Company was driven into bankruptcy when the Atwater Kent Company returned several rail carloads of wooden radio cabinets. In 1936 Phenix advertised the sale of the Warren Chair Works and Mypenn buildings.

By 1942, only four wooden furniture manufacturers remained; Crescent, Paramount, Phenix, and Youngsville Star. Innovations had been tried. Crescent Furniture went from Quarter matched veneer “period” suites in the 1920s to double matched veneer “waterfall” sets in the 1930s to straight cut veneer modern sets after World War II to single and modular pieces in the 1960s that could be shipped more economically than large suites. In 1981 Waterhouse, Inc., the successor firm to Crescent Furniture, shut down, ending large scale wooden furniture manufacturing in Warren.

The birth, development and decline of the furniture industry in Warren was a natural process. Talented people dedicated their imaginations and efforts to build a thriving industry, and then conditions changed. Furniture manufacturing consolidated elsewhere. City directories document simultaneously the decline of furniture manufacturing and the growth of new industry. A chapter in our history is over and has left us this furniture which is around you.

Evan Lanman

Information and assistance from the Warren County Historical Society, the Warren Public Library and Mr. Norman Forsgren are gratefully acknowledged.

Partial Checklist of Warren County Furniture Manufacturers, Approximate Dates and Product Lines

Early Furniture Makers and Date of Mention
1826 - Roger Filer - Cabinetmaker
1837 - Ewers, Kidder and Company - Furniture
1837 - Kidder and Curtis - Chair Factory
1841 - C. W. Shaw’s Furniture Manufactory - Furniture
1846 to 1855 - Dr. William A. Irvine, Strawfields - Chair & Cabinet Factory
1848 - Truman Kidder - Chair Maker
1874 - George Wiederhold - Cabinetmaker
1876 to 1886 - McNett and Sons - Furniture & Coffin Furniture

Manufacturers Listed in Warren City and County Directories
1869 to 1916 - Jas. P. Johnson/Johnson Furniture Co. - Oak Chamber Suites
1916 to 1934 - Nypenn Furniture Company - Bedroom Suites
1886 - Homer & Company - Chairs
1897 to 1913 - Warren Table Works -Tables & Ext. Tables
1913-1938 -Warren Furniture Company - Bed & Dining Furniture
1886 - A. A. Deming, W. Spring Creek - Chairs
1886 to 1910 - Tidioute Chair Company
1901 to 1912 - Tidioute Rocker Company
1904 to 1916 - Tidioute Furniture Manufacturing Company
1895 to 1889 - City Chair Company
1890 to 1893 - Pickett Extension Table Company - Rolltop Extension Tables
1893 to 1899 - Warren Extension Table Company - Rollltop Extension Tables
1899 to 1902 - Conewango Desk & Chair Company - Tables, Desks, Chairs
1902 to 1930 - Conewango Furniture Company - Bed & Dining Furniture
1891 to 1934 - Youngsville Manufacturing Co.
1910 to 1934 - Forest Furniture Co. Youngsville
1938 - Youngsville Forest Manufacturing Co.
1940 to 1965 - Youngsville Star Manufacturing Co. - Bed and Dining Furniture
1895 to 1916 - Bennett Piano Company - Upright & Grand Pianos
1916 to 1928 - Warren Piano Company - Pianos
1916 to 1918 - Haggerty-Cook Piano Company - Pianos
1899 to 1903 - Smith Table Company
1889 to 1940 - Warren Chair Works - Office & Rocking Chairs
1904 to 1967 - Phenix Furniture Company - Bedroom Furniture
1910 to 1912 - Hart Furniture Company - Bedroom Furniture
1910 - Garland Novelty Works
1912 to 1918 - Garland Furniture Company
1920’s - Garland Chair Company
1910 to 1912 - Meas Furniture & Novelty Co.
1914 to 1934 - The Union Furniture & Novelty Co. - Juvenile Furniture
1934 - Colt Novelty Company
1918 to 1976 - Crescent Furniture - Bedroom Furniture
1977 to 1981 - Waterhouse, Inc.
1926 to 1956 - Paramount Furniture - Bed & Dining Furniture
1957 - Paramount Furniture Co. (Fancher Furniture)
1958 - Fancher Furniture of Warren
1922 to 1930’s - One Hand Clock Company
1926 - Fashion Furniture Co. Youngsville
1926 to 1932 - Sheffield Furniture Company - Parlor Furniture
1926 to 1932 - George H. Downing, Tidioute - Juv. Bed Furniture
1934 - Fred Johnson Chairs
1934 - Clarence Larson - Living Room Furn.
1934 - Commander Furniture Co. - Bedroom Furniture

Companies NOT Listed in Directories
1895 - Cobham Table Works
Oakland Chair Company Furniture Manufacture Support Industries
-1895 - Hood, Gale and Company - Veneers
1896 to 1902 - The Gale Manufacturing Co. - Veneers
1902 to 1940 - Warren Veneer & Panel Works -Table Tops, Veneers
1920 to 1924 - Mohawk Veneer Company
1917 to 1942 - Warren Mirror Works
1928 to 1940 - Youngsville Mirror Works