The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website
The Skandia Furniture Company was organized in 1889 at 1202 North Second Street and had a four story block long building constructed along the Rock River. It was not long before an addition was built at the Skandia Furniture Company and the building would become a two block long riverfront factory. Horace Brown was president of the firm at that time.
The company manufactured dining room suites and library pieces, including cylinder desks, hall trees, secretaries and bookcases under the Skandia and Viking Brand Bookcase labels. An adjoining neighborhood named Knightsville was a mix of Victorian style houses and smaller bungalows, many of which became home to the workers of the Skandia plant and became a small Swedish community itself.
Skandia Furniture Company Postcard circa 1935
Once ranked as the largest furniture maker in Rockford the company would cease operations in 1941 and its assets sold to a Chicago firm, Superior Sleeprite Corporation in 1942. The Superior Sleeprite Company would go out of business in 1949.
In 1965 the Skandia Furniture Company building and the Rockford Desk Company that had opened next door were razed. The land that they were once on became a part of Sinnissippi Park.
The immense establishment of the Rockford Chair and Furniture Company was founded in 1882 by Pehr August Peterson, Alexander Johnson, and August Peterson. P. A. Peterson was secretary of the Union Furniture Company and Alexander Johnson was a foreman in the same company. August Peterson was secretary and salesman for the Central Furniture Company at the time. They would construct a large four story building at Railroad Avenue and Ninth Street. The company engaged in the manufacture of medium grade furniture such as bookcases, desks, china closets, buffets and other furniture.
The company was compromised by two establishments known as Plant A and Plant B built in 1897 being separated by a distance of about two miles. Plant A located on Ninth Street had a factory compromising the machine building 50 feet by 150 feet and a finishing department 100 feet by 100 feet, both being four stories in height, besides a storehouse 50 feet by 150 feet. The floor space utilized is about 125,000 square feet. Plant B located on Peoples Avenue compromised two mammoth four story buildings 90 feet by 300 feet with a floor area of 150,000. Both plants were well supplied with sheds, drying rooms and yards covering over five acres of ground. The machinery was of the most modern and up to date type available at the time and the plants required 350 employees to carry out the operations of the company. They were known for turning out some of the most artistic furniture in the markets during the period.
On September 14, 1928, a tornado demolished the Rockford Chair & Furniture Company Factory B where 16 people were injured at the factory. Eight workers were crushed to death when an 80 ton tank of water crashed down on them as a result of the tornado. Plant B was never rebuilt. The company would continue in business until 1950.
The Royal Mantle and Furniture Company at 1901 Harrison Avenue was established in 1892 by C. Lind, D. R. Peterson and J. P. Lundell. The company manufactured medium and high grade dining room and library furniture in oak and mahogany. By 1918 the company focused on dining room furniture exclusively. Its motto was, “We do not make mantels”. On July 6, 1938 the Royal Mantel and Furniture Company was dissolved.
The Co-Operative Furniture Company was organized in July, 1880 by W. W. Johnson, Eben Flemming and Irvin French. Its original capital stock was $25,000, divided into shares of $100 each. The company was located in two spacious four story buildings at Ninth Street and Railroad Avenue. The company manufactured a line of combination and cylinder book-cases, sideboards, tables and office desks in the 80,000 square foot plant. The company would change hands several times over the years and by 1891 the officers of the company were P. A. Peterson, C. A. Hult and C. E. Knudson.
The factory was destroyed by fire in 1888 but the company rebuilt and the factory prospered until the financial depression of 1893. For some years thereafter the plant was practically closed. In 1898 Charles J. Lundberg acting as secretary, treasurer and general manager purchased the interests of the stockholders and along with Alf Larson as president of the firm and C. E. Jacobson as vice president placed the plant on a money making basis again. At that time 120 men were employed in the factory making a line of dining room furniture and combination bookcases.
Later the company was sold to David Nilson and became known as the Nilson Co-Operative Furniture Company around 1926. It was operated until 1932 when financial difficulties beset the company, all of the machinery and stock was auctioned off. On March 12, 1936 the buildings were destroyed in a spectacular fire that also gutted a tavern at 902 Ninth Street.
The Climax Slide and Center Table Company was organized in September 1890 by E. Plenkharp as president, and L. B. Garrett as secretary and treasurer after the Webber Manufacturing Company stockholders voted to change the name to the Climax name. The plant was located in the Knightville area of Rockford and consisted of a three story structure 70 feet by 36 feet in size and one four story building 125 by 70 feet. The company was equipped with the latest modern devices and employed around 50 men. The chief specialty of the company was the Climax table slide and center tables. The slide would never sag and the frictional points were a combination of wood and iron. The company would go out of business in July 1893.
The Illinois Chair Company was organized in 1891 by Roger W. McCullough and George E. Knight. The company constructed a large four story building in Rockford’s “North End” where the company manufactured a fine line of chairs. The company appears to have quit business around April 14, 1899 when it sold its assets. In 1901 the factory was taken over by the Barnes & Son Piano Company which later was known as the Schumann Piano Company.
The Illinois Cabinet Company was founded and incorporated in 1906 by Knut E. Knutson, proprietor of the Rockford Illustrating Company and vice president of the National Engine Company; L. Barkman and John P. Lundell, together they developed the company into one of the largest furniture manufacturing plants in the city. A three story factory 324 x 180 feet in size was erected at 2525 Eleventh Street the same year. The company manufactured a line of bedroom, dining room, and library and novelty furniture along with wooden radio cabinets. A five story rear section was added onto the plant in 1909; the plant now stretched from Eleventh to Ninth Street and covered 285,000 square feet of floor space. Oscar M. Lindgren who had been manager of the plant since 1935, purchased the Illinois Cabinet company from Roger E. Knutsson and his family in 1946. Lindgren and his wife Sylvia, and became the sole owners of the large woodworking industry, which specialized in making radio and by this time television cabinets. The General Electric Company purchased a 50 per cent interest in the cabinet company from the Lindgren’s In April, 1947, and at the time was given an option to buy the remaining 50 per cent. In 1951 the General Electric Company exercised its option and bought the remaining stock and became sole owner of the company.
Ronald Reagan the movie star was host on the General Electric Theater television series, he became not just the host of the company's television series but, in effect, it’s most prominent corporate spokesman. Regan was visiting each of General Electrics 300 manufacturing plants which included a stop at the Rockford facility on October 18, 1955 as part of a goodwill tour to promote the television series and fund raise for the Community Chest. The lobby of the Illinois Cabinet plant was jammed with Community Chest officials and press and radio representatives when he arrived. Reagan would later become a state governor and later the 40th President of the United States.
Around 1955 the plant turned the majority of its resources to manufacturing wooden television cabinets as its main product line, but still made special tables and matching bases for table model TV sets. The plant had the most modern equipment, for making wood, metal, and wood-metal cabinets on every one of the plant's five floors. The plant's wood-manufacturing operation utilized row after row of powerful mechanized saws, moulders, routers, sanders, and allied equipment Its-plywood-production operation finished all the Veneer material with a capacity of six million square feet of panels every year. The plant's metal-manufacturing operation ranged from huge blanking presses right through to a flow coat automatic prime coating tunnel in which metal cabinets were coated and dried in an unusual motorized conveyor method, and an electro-static finish unit where electrically-charged particles of enamel literally leaped from a spinning disk to cabinets 'moving by on an overhead conveyor. A distinctive "cabinet tilt conveyor" which allowed employees to tilt a cabinet and work on its interior as it rides smoothly along a regular belt conveyor was also utilized. Such engineering and manufacturing progress provided the plant with a maximum output of about 2,800 cabinets per day. Most were used in General Electric television sets, but an expanded marketing program was directed in part toward selling additional cabinets to other manufacturers, to assure the fullest possible employment and use of facilities in the plant. The cabinet company would continue in operation until 1973 when cheaper foreign imports would spell the end for the company. The building is still in existence on Eleventh Street just north of Harrison Avenue.
The West End Furniture Company was organized July 7, 1890 by B. A. Knight, president; C. W. Haegg, vice president and Paul Schuster as secretary treasurer, J. H. Lynn would soon replace Schuster as secretary. A large four story 100,000 square foot building was erected in 1891 at 2314 Factory Street. Factory Street was later renamed to Preston Street in 1913. Knight and Haegg resigned their positions and were replaced by Austin Colton who became president of the company, and Frank G. Hogland vice-president. Lincoln Colton was elected a director and appointed assistant secretary to aid J. H. Lynn the present secretary in handling the business of the company.
The company manufactured book-cases, side-boards, buffets, hall trees, folding beds, tables and chiffoniers. The company would cease doing business in 1940 and their left over stock of furniture was auctioned off to retailers while the machinery and equipment was auctioned off to other manufacturing firms. In November 1946 the eastern section of the former furniture company plant was purchased by the Leath Furniture Company for use as a warehouse supplying its 33 Midwest retail stores.
Star Furniture Company, Eighteenth Avenue and Fourteenth Street. Organized in 1889 by F.G. Hogland, Anthony Stenholm, August P. Floberg. A four story factory was erected at Fifteenth Avenue and Fourteenth Street. On March 25, 1890 during the construction of the new Star Furniture factory there was a very high wind that morning and the windows not being installed yet the building collapsed. The building was four stories high and the roof had just been put on. It was a frame building and was to have been veneered over with brick. Twenty men at work on the structure barely escaped with their lives and some blamed the collapse on faulty workmanship. The company did not fare very well and was closed in 1896.
Diamond Furniture Company, Formed in March, 1890, by A. F. Judd, President; Robert Bauch, Vice President; and Fred A. Dow, Secretary and Treasurer. They manufactured patent office chairs and other similar furniture. Closed in 1892.
Excelsior Furniture Company, established in 1881 by J.P. Anderson, President; J. A. Johnson, Vice President; O. A. Harding, Secretary and August P. Floberg, Treasurer. They were manufactures of Parlor Furniture for the wholesale trade. Closed in 1892.
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