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Collection Tier:
Tier 2

Furniture
Lighting ➔ Lamp, Floor

Identifier:
1985.13.3
Description:
Carved and polychromed wooden lamp. Lamp is in three sections, a base, Grecian figurine, and lamp stand.

This lamp is one of two carved in the same model by Joseph F. Heyda when employed as master carver and foreman of the carving department at the Criswell Furniture Company and later the Johnson Handley Johnson Furniture Company. It comes in three sections, base, figurine, and upper section held aloft by the figure, each section carved from a solid wood block, the whole polychromed. The polychrome effect may cause the work to be mistakenly regarded as a cast metal piece. As the lamps were finished around 1923, it is likely that the work was done during 1920-1923. One of the two lamps was always destined for "the boss", however there remains some uncertainty as to just which one, the probability being James Criswell or Thomas Handley, president of the Johnson Handley Johnson Furniture Company.

The second lamp remained in the Joseph Heyda family at that time residing at Bristol and Three Mile Road, Grand Rapids. The lamp on display at the Grand Rapids Public Museum is that carved for one of the executives. Along with several other carved pieces, it came into the possession of Oscar and Marge Baert residing at 120 Luton Street, Grand Rapids. The great grandson of Oscar Baert, Jack Vendenberg of Grand Haven, recalls seeing these pieces in the home when visiting there as a boy. Marge Hewitt Baert, second wife of Dr. Baert, is thought to have been instrumental in acquiring these pieces, possibly at the time of Thomas Handley's death in 1926. At the death of Marge Baert in 1938 and that of Oscar Baert a few years later, Orsca Baert the daughter inherited the property. Years later, in the spring of 1980, as Orsca retired to a nursing home, the lamp along with several other carved pieces were presented to the Museum.

In the meantime the lamp in possession of the Heyda family was lost after the death of Mrs. Joseph Heyda and the closing of the home. During March, 1923, one of the lamps was displayed at the Wood-carvers Exhibition given in the Grand Rapids Public Library. A print of the lamp and the name of the carver appeared in The Furniture Manufacturer and Artisan in March of 1923 along with an account entitled "Wood Carvers Exhibit of National Interest", by Arthur Kirkpatrick. In lines descriptive of the lamp, Kirkpatrick wrote that among the articles: "There is a beautifully carved figure forming the standard for a lamp. It has a feminine delicacy in this structure and the whole is nicely proportioned and modestly but beautifully polychromed."
Date:
1920 – 1923
Materials:
Walnut
Dimensions:
36" h 11" w 11" d
Current Location Status:
In Storage
Source:
In Memory Of Dr. Oscar Baert
Exhibits/Programs
Furniture City (1994 – 2013)
Furniture City was one of the signature core exhibits installed at the Grand Rapids Public Museum's new Van Andel Museum Center when it opened in 1994.  At approximately 10,000 square feet, the exhibit occupied a significant portion of the museum's second floor and contained hundreds of pieces of Grand Rapids Furniture.  The exhibition was accompanied by the authoritative book on the subject, "Grand Rapids Furniture", by GRPM curator Christian Carron.  The Furniture City exhibit told a comprehensive story of the Furniture Industry in Grand Rapids, from its origins in the years after the Civil War, up to the present day with office and fixed seating manufacturers like Steelcase and American Seating.  The exhibition was significantly reduced in size in 2013 to make room for a new gallery, and was finally closed in 2019.

Furniture Highlights (October 1 2014)
Highlights from the Grand Rapids Public Museum's collection of over 2,000 pieces of furniture.
Makers/Donors
Heyda, Joseph
Joseph Heyda was born in Bohemia in 1873 of Bohemian and Czech extraction. In 1879 the parents came to America, settled in Milwaukee and eventually the family numbered five children. Joseph married Katherine Henjy in Milwaukee when a young man of twenty already interested in woodworking. They moved to Grand Rapids where there first daughter Mary was born in 1894 at the home at 290 Fourth Street. Subsequently nine other children were born in the family, the youngest in 1912. The five younger children were born at the home on Harding Street where the family moved in 1904. A later residence taken up in 1913 was at 310 Lane Avenue where they remained until 1922, at which time they moved to Bristol and Three Mile Road.

As Grand Rapids entered the zenith period in its history as a quality furniture producer and "Furniture Capitol of America," Joseph Heyda took employment in number of firms becoming a proficient master carver. He was with the Century Furniture Company as carver in 1913, with the Grand Rapids Chair Company in 1915, with the Grand Rapids Carving Company in 1917. In 1918 Heyda accepted the offer of James Criswell, owner of the Criswell Furniture Company, and remained with him until 1922 when the company merged with the newly reorganized Johnson Handley Johnson Furniture Company. Mr. Criswell had formerly been associated with the Johnson Furniture Copmany as their Eastern representative and salesman. It was at this time that Heyda came into contact with Thomas S. Handley, talented designer born and educated in England and president of Johnson Handley Johnson Furniture Company. The Johnson executives, J. Hjalmar, Car, and Axel, as well as Tom Handley, were close to the plant operations, especially with the wood-carving department. The company specialized in medium-priced handmade dining room and bedroom furniture. With the discovery and opening of the tomb of King Tutankhamen in 1922, the Egyptian motif was introduced into furniture products, Handley designing pieces and Heyda overseeing and executing the carving.

Joseph Heyda did not long enjoy these years for in 1924 tuberculosis struck him, a man of fifty years, and he retired to take up an eight-year fight to regain health, a battle that ended with his death. The miracle drugs that would have enabled him to recover his health had not yet been discovered. He died in 1931 at the age of 58. In that comparatively short span of life he had seen his family of ten children through grades and high schools and into life careers. He had also achieved a well-deserved reputation as master wood carver in a city where standards for such were very high. It may seem strange that detailed information about the lamps has been lost, but the people who could have answered many questions died without leaving such a record. We may speculate who designed the lamp, Heyda, Criswell, or possibly Handley for who the second was intended, Criswell Handley or Hjalmar Johnson, and how it later came into the hands of the Baert family and to the Museum. Researched and written by Dr. Marie Heyda, O.P. Professor Emeritus Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, December, 1984.


Johnson Handley Johnson Furniture Company
Johnson Furniture Co.
1908 - 1983
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Successor to Cabinetmakers Co.; Predecessor to RoseJohnson, Inc.
SEE ALSO Cabinetmakers Co.; Contract Furniture Co. (Listed below)
COMPANY HISTORY       
1903: Johnson brothers begin Cabinetmakers Co.
1908: Cabinetmakers Co. sold; Johnson brothers begin Johnson Furniture Co.; Tom Handley hired as staff designer.
1913: Company completes a new factory at 1101 Godfrey Avenue SW.
1922: Johnson-Handley-Johnson organized as a companion company, utilizing the same factory, showrooms, and officers as Johnson Furniture co.; plant expands to include former Grand Rapids Piano Case factory next door.
1942 – 1945: Johnson plant converts to wartime production of part for Stinson Bomber aircraft.
1963: Last Johnson family member retires and company is sold; company merges with Timber-Line, Inc., while retaining Johnson name.
1968: Purchased by Holiday Inns of America, Inc.
1983: Merges with Rose Manufacturing Co. to become RoseJohnson, Inc.
PERSONNEL
Johnson Furniture was founded by three brothers who emigrated from Sweden in 1887: Carl (who had received a medal for his cabinetmaking skills from the King of Sweden), Hjalmar, and Axel. Tom Handley, who got his start at the prestigious firm of Waring and Gillow in London, became their in-house designer in 1908 and joined them as an officer in 1922. He continued to hold both positions until his untimely death in 1926. Handley established Johnson and Johnson-Handley-Johnson as major producers of high-quality, period revival, residential furniture. The nature of Handley’s designs required the skills of hand craftsmen like Bohemian-born carver Joseph Heyda, and Austrian-born Frank Davidhazy, Sr., who created the floral, figural and classical designs that were painted on the surfaces of some case pieces.
David Robertson Smith, designer of Stickley Brothers Arts and Crafts lines, led Johnson into the production of Art Deco and Modern lines in 1928. The company later claimed that this was the first complete line of “modern” furniture produced in the United States. Lorenzo (Renzo) Rutili served as head of design from 1933 into the 1960s. He personally designed groups in the Modern and Neoclassical repertoires, and oversaw the contracted design of lines by a “Who’s Who” of famous Modern designers, including Paul Frankl, Eliel Saarinen, and J.Robert F. Swanson and Pipsam Swanson.
When Earl Johnson retired and the family sold the company in 1963, it was purchased by a group of investors led by James Van Oosten. Milo Baugham and Kipp Stewart designed lines of residential furniture, which Johnson produced for Directional Industries between 1963 and 1968. After being owned by Holiday Inns, Inc. between 1968 and 1975, the company returned to the ownership of Van Oosten and company.
PRODUCTS
Generally speaking, Johnson produced wood residential furniture for the bedroom, while the Johnson-Handley-Johnson label was used to dining suites, occasional tables, and case pieces for the hall and library. Pieces produced between 1908 and about 1920 were designed in period revival styles, especially Sheraton, Hepplewhite, and Empire, and in a combination of European and American Revivals including Colonial, William and Mary, Jacobean, Queen Anne, French Provincial, Chinese Chippendale, and painted Italian or Venetian, from circa 1920 to 1935. Most notable are pieces designed by Tom Handley, which feature intricate marquetry designs and elaborate carving. Some of his most unusual designs are adaptation of classical Egyptian furniture, introduced in the early 1920s to capitalize upon popular fascination with contemporary archeological discoveries.
The 1928 introduction of the Art Deco “Dynamique” line by D. Robertson Smith, with its exotic wood veneers and forms reminiscent of Frankl’s “skyscraper” bookcases, began a long period in which the company concurrently produced both modern and revival lines. Renzo Rutili selected traditional master works from museum collections across the country for reproduction in the 1938 American Museum Group. A sharp contrast to these reproductions came only a year later, when Johnson introduced a modular system for the home known as “Flexible Home Arrangement” (FHA), designed by Eliel Saarinen and J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsam Swanson of the Cranbrook Institute. In the early 1950s Johnson produced several line by Paul Frankl, among them the “Contemporary” line, made from pearwood with bleached cork counter tops, and chairs with “plunging neckline” cutout backs that mimicked women’s fashions of the day. New lines referencing historical styles were also introduced in the 1950s and early 1960s, including the “Country Directoire,” “Mediterranean,” and “Riviera” lines designed by John Wisner.
 
In 1963 Johnson began to produce television and stereo cabinets and juke boxes on contract. Johnson also became the sole manufacturer of case goods and occasional furniture for Directional Industries. After Johnson merged with Timberline, Inc. it added furniture for hotels, motels, and college dormitories to its contract lines. John produced and installed furniture in dormitories of many major state and private universities under the name “Uniline” as a subsidiary of Holiday Inn. Its hotel and motel furnishings were installed in most Holiday Inns and many Howard Johnson motels worldwide, and in special projects such as the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas.
OTHER SOURCES
The Grand Rapids Public Museum has in its collections a large number of Johnson catalogs, original design drawings, and other archival materials ranging from the 1910s through the 1970s, as well as a good representation of its products from the same range of dates.
MARKS AND LABELS
Both Johnson and Johnson-Handley-Johnson used the same symbol as their logo: three teardrops spiraling around a common center, a sort of three-part yin and yang. This symbol commonly appears as a metal tag inside the right-hand drawer of case pieces, or on a paper label affixed to the back of a case piece or under the seat of a chair. Some paper labels between 1908 and circa 1930 also include a box with the printed signature “T.S. Handley”. In the 1960s the company name was printed in uppercase serif letters, with a crown resting on the “J”. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the trademark was a bold “J” over a small red dot.
Cabinetmakers Company
1904 – 1908
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Manufacturer of tables and library suites.
Predecessor to Johnson Furniture Co.
Contract Furniture Company
1956 – 1968
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Manufacturer of furniture.
 
The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998. 


Criswell Furniture Company

Baert, Orsca
Related Place
Grand Rapids
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