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Q. I have a beautiful chest that I believe to be Eagles and Pullman. There is a very nice brass tag inside the drawer with an Eagle and the wording "True Grand Rapids Cabinet Making, Certified C-51-20" I think it might be Eagles and Pullman because of the eagle on the plaque. Do you know anything about this company or the value of their pieces? This is a very well made piece of mahogany and yew, inlaid wood with burl panels and original handles. I think that it is likely a reproduction of an original Federal piece. This was probably made in the 1920's or so. Any help would be appreciated both with identification and price.
A. Eagles-Pullman was a manufacturer of made to order furniture in Grand Rapids and also was a retailer of certain high end pieces made in New York City. The company was only in business from 1850 to 1854, according to the definitive book on Grand Rapids furniture from the Grand Rapids Museum. After 1854 the Pullmans (George and A. B.) moved to Chicago to manufacture Pullman Palace rail cars. Based on the photos you sent, especially the one of the machine made drawer joinery, I agree that this is a 20th century piece so it is not an Eagles-Pullman piece.
The brass tag is the mark of a local trade association known as the Grand Rapids Furniture Makers Guild. The Grand Rapids Furniture Makers Guild was formed in 1931 to cooperatively market Grand Rapids products during the Depression. According to the book "Grand Rapids Furniture - The Story of America's Furniture City" by Christian Carron, published by the Public Museum of Grand Rapids, virtually every piece of furniture sold by a Guild dealer was registered by a number and marked with a special tag identifying it as "Guild Certified" and often had no other identification. Each tag was individually numbered--in fact they made a big deal about this in their ads--but the records of what those serial numbers meant or to which company they were assigned has been lost.
For more information about the Public Museum of Grand Rapids visit the web site at http://www.grmuseum.org or better yet, visit the Museum at 272 Pearl St. N.W. in Grand Rapids.
Q. I am refinishing and restoring a very old (antique?) sideboard that has raised panels in the doors and on the sides. My question has to do with the panels. Are they supposed to be loose or tight in the door frame? When I started on the piece all the panels were tight. Now that I have stripped it some of the panels seem to be loose. When I tap the doors I can hear them rattle. I don't know if I loosened the glue when I stripped it or if they are supposed to be this way. Thanks for your help. James P.
A. Inset panels should never be glued into the frame, especially if they are solid wood. Depending on the age and species of the wood, some panels can expand or contract as much as 1/8in for each 12in of width across the grain. If the panels are securely glued in place, when the wood decides its time to move it will have nowhere to go, either generating a split along the grain of the panel or taking some of the door stile with it as it moves.
Probably the reason you did not notice any movement in the panels before you started work was that the panels were held in place by the old finish or the accumulation of dust and wax along the bead of the panel. This will keep the panel from rattling but not prevent it from its appointed movement. When you apply finish to the piece you will accomplish the same thing. Just be sure that when you stain the piece you jiggle the panels around enough to cover any portions that may become exposed due to movement at a later date.
Also, to insure equal movement of both sides of an inset panel, be sure to finish both the inside and outside of the panel in the same manner. They should be equally sealed to balance the movement.
Q. Dear Fred - I have noticed that most of your columns deal with late 19th and early 20th century furniture. Why don't you devote more time to real antiques from the 18th and early 19th centuries? Just wondering. Tom E.
A. Remind me to debate you sometime about what constitutes a "real" antique. Not surprisingly I do have an opinion on that subject but this column is not about such scholarly discussions. I merely attempt to provide factual information on items that readers have bought/seen/inherited, etc. It seems that a great deal of what is out there, in malls, in shops and at auctions is of late 19th and early 20th century origin. There is an amazing lack of documentation on American furniture from 1880 to 1950, with a few notable exceptions, and that is why there are so many questions about that period. Of course there are good references on most of the major movements like Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, the Larkin phenomenon and such as that. However, most of the regular old "stuff" that regular old people had, passed down, sold or gave away is virtually anonymous. And that's what folks are asking about.
Send your comments, questions and pictures to me at P0 Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Fred's website at www.furnituredetective.com His book "HOW TO BE A FURNITURE DETECTIVE" is available for $18.95 plus $3.00 S&H. Send check or money order for $21.95 to Fred Taylor, PO Box 215, Crystal River, FL 34423.
Fred and Gail Taylor's dvd, "IDENTIFICATION OF OLDER & ANTIQUE FURNITURE", ($17.00 + $3.00 S&H) and a bound compilation of the first 60 columns of "COMMON SENSE ANTIQUES by Fred Taylor" ($25.00 + $3.00 S&H) are also available at the same address. For more information call (800)387-6377, fax (352)563-2916, or e-mail email@example.com
If you have any questions, you can Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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