The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website
Rockford Standard Furniture was founded in 1887 by a group of furniture makers of Swedish extraction, J. A. Lundgren, P. A. Palmer, and D. R. Peterson. The company was housed in a four-story factory building at 1100 - Eleventh Street at Railroad Avenue. Later P. A. Peterson would become president of the company. It made a reputation as a manufacturer of ornate, high-quality china cabinets, bookcases, library furniture and buffets. The capital stock at the start was $75.000 and later this was increased to $125.000.
Some of the skilled craftsmen employed by the Rockford Standard Furniture Company pose for this picture in the late 1800's behind the factory.
Some of the craftsmen making high quality Rockford made furniture at the factory late 1800's
A view of the assembly department of Rockford Standard Furniture company in the late 1800's
By 1891 the company employed 185 people and their plant occupied an entire block from Parmele Street to Eleventh Street along Railroad Avenue, plant included two large four-story brick veneered buildings, respectively 60x125 and 97x115 feet in size and had100,000 square feet of floor space and had 90,000 square feet of floor space.
Dining Room and Library Furniture is made and choice designs are offered at each new season, making the Standard one of the factors to be reckoned with in the market The management of this plant is in the hands of men well versed in the furniture business, whose hands are on the pulse of the business world and at all times cognizant of its condition and movement. This knowledge and the use of the latest and most approved machinery and methods keeps this plant at the forefront at all times and makes its volume of business unusually large and steady. In a manufacturing field that was destined to make the city famous throughout the United States, and the quality of its products represented the finest possible workmanship as shown in these examples. The Rockford Standard Company had specialized in dining room suites and gained such Prestige in this line that frequently moving picture people from Hollywood came to Rockford to order special suites for movie sets.
Harry C. West would become associated with P. A. Peterson in Rockford Standard Furniture Company in the 1920’s, joining the company as treasurer. The machine tool and metal industry sprang up in Rockford and payed higher wages than the furniture companies, and most young people were not interested in learning the furniture trade when they could earn better wages elsewhere. The furniture industries had their ups and downs but curtailment of materials and lack of manpower hurt the factories during World War I. In the 1920's, as home building gave impetus to the industry, the furniture companies in the southern states began to make cheap furniture. Shortly, the South was making a higher-grade furniture product and making it cheaper than the Rockford factories with wood-working machines made in the Rockford factories. In some instances, Rockford men were induced to take jobs in the southern factories and gave them Rockford techniques. P. A. Peterson passed away in 1927 and Harry C. West became president of the company.
By the start of the Great Depression in 1929 Rockford Standard Furniture was running out of money. West enlisted the help of the Hawken Brothers who recently acquired several other furniture stores and who operated two retail furniture stores in Rockford, one at 412 East State Street and the other at 217 East State, to dispose of the company’s furniture stock. The Hawken Brothers would turn the whole lower floor of the Rockford Standard Furniture Company plant, formerly used as a shipping room, into a huge salesroom. Meanwhile, manufacturing at the Rockford Standard plant would continue until present stocks of lumber were used up. That was expected to take three months. They would offer for sale $235,000 factory stock of Rockford made furniture to Rockford and Northern Illinois residents at prices which meant a tremendous saving to buyers. This allowed the company more time to re-organize. This would be the end of manufacturing furniture at Rockford Standard Furniture.
After the sale, the company that originally only sold its furniture to the wholesale trade started selling furniture directly to the consumer in its factory showrooms. West began with three people, four buildings and thousands of dollars’ worth of red ink. He eventually came to control most of the firm's stock, and ultimately ended up employing more than 100 persons. He became Chairman of the Board and guided the company through the depression and beyond, turning all of the floors of one of the buildings into a retail furniture store where a successful business had been built up in the retail line.
Rockford Standard expanded their retail line to include an unequaled display that included 60 to 75 living room suites from which to choose, 50 dining room suites and 40 bedroom suites besides 100 lounging chairs, 60 occasional chairs, lamps by the hundred and small tables. cedar chests and magazine racks at all times. They would later add appliances and carpeting to their sales lines. It was said that their showing of Rockford made furniture was impressive and since they owned their own buildings and storage facilities they could sell a higher grade furniture at lower costs.
Walter Franklin was long time secretary of the company until his passing in 1973 when Robert C. Grindle was appointed to fill the position. Harry West would eventually become Chairman of the Board passing the president position on to his son-in-law since 1948, Royal Lightcap. In 1981 Jeffery R. Lightcap, West’s grandson, would become vice-president of the firm. Harry West would pass away in October 1987 during the 100th anniversary of the company. In 1989 the interior and exterior of the red brick factory building underwent extensive remodeling which included beautiful landscaping.
Rockford Standard Furniture Company, a company that started out as a manufacturing company before becoming exclusively a furniture retailer would shut its doors in 1998 after one hundred eleven years in business. The Benson Stone Company purchased the building, renovated it and has occupied this building since 2001.
The Hanson Clock Company was founded in 1922 by Julian Hanson and located at 624 Cedar Street. In 1923 the Forest City Overall Company located at 1120 Eleventh Street on the corner of Eleventh Street and Eleventh Avenue, one block south of Railroad Avenue, ceased doing business and the owner sold the building to the Hanson concern. In May 1924, the Hanson Clock Company was incorporated by Julian N. Hanson, Elsie K. Hanson and L. C. Miller. Products of the Hanson Clock Company were a variety of hall clocks, grandfather clocks, bungalow clocks and smaller apartment clocks. In 1927 an addition was added on to the Eleventh Street building by Linden & Sons contractors which more than doubled its floor space. New machinery was also added at this time.
In December 1936, the Hanson Clock Company filed a voluntary bankruptcy petition in United States district court at Freeport. The company was said to be one of two firms in the United States engaged in the manufacture of grandfather clocks at the time. The company was reorganized in July 1937 and a new charter was granted to S. A. Ralston, J. C. Ralston and G. S. Ralston. Julian Hanson, former head of the company remained actively connected to the concern. The company continued to manufacture grandfather floor clocks on a broad scale. The Hanson Clock Company clocks were sold by jewelers and retail furniture dealers throughout the United States. The Hanson Clock Company maintained a show room in its factory building on Eleventh Street where every model of clock made by the firm could be seen.
The entire cabinet of the Hanson grandfather clock was made by craftsmen who had been with the firm for years. The cases were made principally of the finest select grade of mahogany but also came in oak, maple and other woods in a variation of designs to satisfy varying tastes. The clocks movements were specially made for the Hanson Clock Company. Some were American made and others were imported, there were no springs, the weight controlled gravity actuated movement was used. The clocks came in many styles and types, from the simple clock sounded from rods striking a cathedral gong every half hour and hour to the finest clocks, striking tubular chimes which produced a deeper and more resonant bell like tone. Hanson clocks offered the choice of Westminster or Whittington chimes, in some clocks a third choice was offered. The chimes were of historic interest, the Westminster chimes were first sounded from the bell tower of the University Church St. Mary’s the Great in Cambridge, England, and is played each quarter hour on Big Ben in Westminster Abbey. The Whittington chimes were based on the tune ringing from the bell tower of the church of St Mary-le-Bow in London. The company was sold to the Peerless Furniture Company in 1964 which shut down clock production in 1965 for reasons unknown.
Phoenix Furniture Company, Corner of Fulton and Latham. Organized July 1, 1890 by Edward Marsh, President; George Penfield, Vice President and Charles E. Cohoe as Secretary and Treasurer. They manufactured extension tables and chamber suites. Destroyed by fire in 1893.
Rockford Light Furniture Company, Nineteenth Avenue and Eleventh Street. Incorporated in 1911. This company manufactured portable and floor lamps and domes under such names as the "Maid", "Flood-O- Lite" lamps and "Blue Seal Quality - The line of a Hundred Masterpieces". They would also manufacture cabinets, piano benches and art furniture. They went bankrupt in 1916.
The Rockford Palace Furniture Company was founded in 1897 and moved into the former Palace Folding Bed Company building at 1724 Woodruff Avenue, corner of Woodruff and 14th Street. The company manufactured dining room furniture, bookcases, desks, secretary desks, and radio cabinets. The depression took its toll on the company forcing it out of business in 1934. In 1936 the old factory building was demolished and the property was sold for residential purposes.
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