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Published By

Bruce Johnson

Author, Columnist and Director of the
National Arts & Crafts Conference
at The Grove Park Inn since 1988

Articles & Guides for Arts & Crafts Furniture Collectors

Gustav Stickley Shopmarks

Gustav Stickley (1858-1942)
Gustav Stickley (1858-1942)
While he was not the first American Arts & Crafts manufacturer to place a shopmark on each piece his craftsmen created (that distinction belongs to Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters), Gustav Stickley's shopmarks may be the most scrutinized. His shopmarks have been used not only to identify his furniture, but in some cases to assign a year of manufacture.
The Craftsman Magazine (1901-1916)
The Craftsman Magazine (1901-1916)
Gustav Stickley changed his shopmark several times during his 15-year career as an Arts & Crafts furniture manufacturer. In some instances we know precisely when these changes occurred, for he often announced it in his catalog or magazine. Stickley, however, only intended for his shopmarks to distinguish his Craftsman Workshops furniture from that of his competitors, for retailers often sold competing pieces side-by-side in their stores. Stickley did not intend for his shopmarks to document which year a piece was made. What we might consider to be a 1901 decal could have been discovered by a workman in the workshop in 1907 and hastily attached to a piece coming out of the finish room.
Shopmark on a rear stretcher.
Shopmark on a rear stretcher.

Stickley instructed his workmen to place the shopmark "in an unobtrusive place." He wanted customers to be able to find it without it detracting from the beauty of the craftsmanship. It was often placed inside or under one of the top drawers, on the back of a case piece, on a chair stretcher or seat rail, underneath a seat, inside a door or under an arm or a top. Since the fragile decals did fade or could be damaged by refinishing chemicals, a bright light may be needed to spot what is left of it.


His earliest known mark.
His earliest known mark.

This is believed to be the first mark Gustav Stickley used on his furniture. This one-inch to 2.5-inches high red decal contains a joiner's compass (an early woodworker's tool) and the motto "Als ik kan," which is Flemish for 'As I can.' Beneath it we find only his last name encased in a red box. This shopmark was introduced in 1902 and was used throughout that year and 1903.


The 1902-1903 mark.
The 1902-1903 mark.

In late 1902 and throughout 1903 Stickley utilized a new variation of this same decal, enclosing the entire mark in a one-inch red box. Some large case pieces, however, known to have been made in 1903 will bear the 2.5 inch mark from 1902. Overlaps like this are not uncommon and reinforce why dating a piece from a shopmark alone is not always precise.


The 1904-1907 version.
The 1904-1907 version.

In 1904 two of Gustav's brothers opened their furniture business nearby, prompting him to add his first name to a shopmark he introduced that year. In addition, he dropped the box around the joiner's compass.This mark appears in two sizes: 2.5 inch and ¾ inch. It is distinguished from the next variation by the looping letter "G" (see how obsessive Stickley collectors get?). The 'looping G' shopmark was used from 1904-1907.


Perhaps the most common of his marks.
Perhaps the most common of his marks.

In 1905 another mark began appearing. This one is 1.5 inches high and has a more formal signature with a pointed letter "G." It was used from 1905 into 1912 and is considered the most commonly found of all his shopmarks, since this was his era of greatest production.


The branded mark.
The branded mark.

In 1912 came the final version: a 1.25 inch brand bearing the joiner's compass and only his last name. Why he switched from his familiar decals to a brand is open to speculation, as was his motivation to drop his first name from his shopmark. This branded mark remained in use until the close of Craftsman Workshops in 1916.


The "conjoined" Stickley mark.
The "conjoined" Stickley mark.
In 1918 Leopold Stickley, who had purchased his older brother's assets at the bankruptcy sale, formed a short-lived association with his brothers. Arts & Crafts furniture produced in 1918 and for a short time thereafter bore this conjoined decal borrowing elements from both his and Gustav's earlier shopmarks. Once again, however, the brothers proved that they could not work together and the association was dissolved (see shopmarks of L. & J.G. Stickley in this section).
The first paper label:  1905-1907.
The first paper label: 1905-1907.

Starting in 1905 Gustav began using paper labels along with his decals and brands to identify his furniture. The first paper label was 2.75 inches by 3 inches on white paper and only made reference to Eastwood, N.Y., where his factory was located. It remained in use from 1905 - 1907.


The 1907-1912 paper label.
The 1907-1912 paper label.
In 1907 a new version printed on brown paper and measuring 3 inches by 4.75 inches appeared. It includes a reference to his New York City showrooms and remained in use into 1912.
The 1912-1916 paper label.
The 1912-1916 paper label.

In 1912 the final version, also on brown paper but with blue ink and measuring 4 inches by 6 inches, was introduced. It corresponds with the brand also introduced in 1912 and contains a lengthy text and guarantee.

Although not a definitive means of dating a piece of Craftsman Workshops furniture, the shopmarks of Gustav Stickley certainly add another dimension for collectors. Keep in mind, however, that condition and design play the most important role in determining the value of a Stickley piece, not the shopmark. As author David Cathers noted, "Know the furniture first, then look for marks as confirmation."

Reference: "Furniture of the American Arts and Crafts Movement" by David M. Cathers (Turn of the Century Editions, 1996).


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