The Stickley brothers began hand crafting wooden chairs more than 120 years ago in Binghamton, N.Y. Since that humble beginning, Stickley has become a major manufacturer of quality traditional handcrafted furniture. The term "Stickley furniture" refers to pieces made by master craftsman Gustav Stickley or any of his 5 brothers, including Leopold and John George, founders of L. & J.G. Stickley, still in business today. Over the years, the brothers collaborated in a variety of different business ventures, but all 5 never worked together at the same time.
The Stickley Family
The Stickley family name was originally Stoeckel, but the patriarch of the family changed it in the late 19th century to Americanize the name. The 5 Stickley brothers--John George, Charles, Albert, Leopold and Gustav--began building furniture around 1875 under the tutelage of their uncle, Jacob Schlager, in Pennsylvania. Three of the brothers--Albert, Gustav and Charles--moved to Binghamton, N.Y., and began the Stickley Brothers Furniture Company. Gustav later started his own company called Craftsman Workshops.
Arts & Crafts Movement
With his slogan "als ik kan," which means "to the best of my ability," Gustav Stickley went on to become a leader of the Arts & Crafts movement from 1900 to 1915. Arts & Crafts began in England as a reaction against the impersonalization of the Industrial Revolution. The movement advocated a return to simplicity, which became a driving force behind Stickley's handcrafted furniture designs.
L. & J.G. Stickley
In 1900, Leopold and John George Stickley purchased a furniture company in the upstate New York town of Fayetteville. They began producing a line called Mission Oak, with simple lines that were in direct contrast to the ornate Victorian aesthetic of the previous century. The company produced many different products including chairs, tables, dressers and bed frames. Stickley became known for staying true to historic manufacturing methods, such as dovetailed cross rails and pinned mortise and tenon joints.
Adapting to Change
By the 1920s, consumers were no longer interested in the Mission style. In response to changing tastes, L. & J.G. Stickley launched the Cherry Valley Collection, drawing on American Colonial designs. The furniture line was produced in solid cherry. The Stickley name soon became synonymous with quality craftsmanship and design. Throughout the mid-20th century, the company was honored in such prestigious magazines as "House Beautiful," "The New Yorker" and "National Geographic."
By the 1970s, sales were in decline and L. & J.G. Stickley was on the verge of closing. Instead, Alfred and Aminy Audi purchased the company and began to turn it around. Audi's father had been the largest Stickley furniture dealer in the country, so his interest in saving the company was genuine. Slowly, the company began to recover.
In 1985, L. & J.G. Stickley moved from Fayetteville to Manlius, N.Y., where it continues to operate today. The original Fayetteville factory now houses The Stickley Museum. Additional manufacturing facilities have opened in North Carolina and Vietnam. The current furniture selection includes a variety of lines, such as the original Mission Collection and the Williamsburg Reserve Collection. Most Stickley furniture is plain wood, but there are leather and upholstered pieces in the current product lineup. The company is led by the late Alfred Audi's wife Aminy, their son and 2 daughters.
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