Corner House Antiques Corner House Antiques · Thomas and Kathleen Tetro
Located in the Heart of the Massachusetts Berkshires
Route 7, Sheffield, MA 01257 (413) 229-6627

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American Antique Wicker Summer Exhibit 2008
  American Antique Wicker  

Corner House Antiques Online Catalog
for 2008 American Antique Wicker Exhibition
Atwood House Museum - Chatham MA Historical Society

What Is Wicker?
Usage of the word wicker has evolved over time. It is generally defined as the woven essence ofWakefield Rattan Factorybaskets or various furniture objects, also known as "wickerwork."~ It is an all-inclusive term regarding the element of an item which is woven out of one or more types and/or sizes of different natural raw materials. Wicker is not a material in and of itself; it is the resulting object fabricated out of organic plant materials such as rattan, cane, reed and willow, and man-made fibers such as rush. The word wicker did originate, however, from a combination of Scandinavian words for a particular material: the Swedish noun vikker and the Danish noun viger both refer to osiers, the pliable offshoots of slender new growth on a willow tree, used for weaving. Additionally, the Swedish verb wika refers to the act of bending or folding.

The Victorian Style
The earliest American wicker is classified as Victorian, dating from the mid-1800s to 1900. A progression of several distinct woven designs transformed during that period. The initial forms are somewhat skeletal where wickerwork is simply wrapped over arches and curved frames. Victorian wicker is mostly recognized, however, for elaborate and intricate designs of the 1880s-1890s. The fanciful wicker of the aesthetic movement possesses a sculptural quality as hand woven works of art. Toward the turn of the century more subdued patterns were in vogue.

antique wicker sleigh antique wicker music stand  
The Victorian Style  
antique wicker banjo motif
Victorian Motif Wicker

Victorian Motif Wicker
Motif wicker is an ornate category of Victorian wicker that first appeared in the 1870s. Motif seating pieces are woven creations where the back panel becomes the artist's canvas, so to speak. Also
antique wicker photographers chair
Photographer's Chair
referred to as "theme" wicker, the back rest depicts an object, or multiple objects, in hand-woven wickerwork.

Victorian Wicker
Photographers' Chairs

Wicker photographers' chairs flourished in the Victorian era. Also known as "posing chairs", these studio props provided an artistic wicker background for one's formal portrait. The subject would either perch on the seat or stand beside the chair for the photograph. These speciality chairs usually have elaborate ornamentation with a melange of intricate wickerwork. The whimsical patterns and asymmetry provide an aesthetic visual backdrop.

The Bar Harbor Style
The Bar Harbor style was made from the turn-of-the-century into the 1920s. It is characterized by hand woven crisscrossed reeds taking the form of diamond shaped lattice, finished in either a wide or narrow braided border. The frames of this open and airy style may be rounded with curves, or rectilinear as in Mission wicker.

Mission wicker detail Bar Harbor wicker chair Bar Harbor wicker teacart
The Bar Harbor Style

The Stick Wicker Style
Stick Wicker is tailored and streamlined having evenly spaced paired vertical reeds, usually without any overlapping design. Hand-woven Stick Wicker from the early 1900s-late 1920s is characterized by a Modernist quality to its often angular frame. Special features include magazine pockets and glass holders woven into the arms of seating pieces.

Stick Wicker chair Stick Wicker side chair Antique Wicker Table
The Stick Wicker Style

The Art Deco Style
The French inspired Art Deco style of American antique wicker thrived in the 1920s. Curved and peaked frames, rounded arms and flared legs feature various basketweave patterns closely woven overall. Visual interest often includes zig-zag designs, arrows, a diamond or cluster of diamonds. Lloyd loom wicker is closely woven as well, but with thinner diameter material. Mass production of wicker became available in 1917 when looms were used to weave fine reeds or twisted paper material into large sheets, much like yards of fabric. The material was then applied to wooden frames by hand.

Art Deco wicker lamp Art Deco wicker chair
Art Deco style lamp and chair

More Than a Century of
Classic American Wicker
The revival of classic woven furniture began in the 1960s and 70s and by the 1980s its popularity was thriving once again. Interior design magazines as well as art and antiques publications reintroduced American antique wicker on several different levels - appreciation of its consummate artistry, versatility in decorating virtually any room setting, and the wide range of wicker work variations made during the span of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. More than a dozen books devoted exclusively to the history, design and care of authentic Americans antique wicker were published through the 1990s. The reestablished acclaim for the four major styles of period wicker became comparable to its zenith of the late 1800s to 1920s. The resurgence of hand woven furniture is appreciated for its fine workmanship, utility and artistic sculptural qualities.

American wicker has been spotlighted in several historic exhibitions in the past 100 years. The 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia was the most notable of the distant past. The Wakefield Rattan Co. of Massachusetts had a significant presence at that first American World's Fair, and made a huge impact on the popularity of wicker furniture at that time. Exposure of the company's display of a wide range of rattan goods led it to become known as the preeminent manufacturer associated with the American industry of woven furniture.

A contemporary exhibit in 1993, AMERICAN WICKER: Woven Furniture from 1850 to 1930, was held at the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of American Art in Washington D.C. Many private collectors and antiques dealers participated in that exhibition. It was an important and scholarly display and a milestone for the recognition of the useful and artistic value of American antique wicker.

antique wicker wicker schooner motif
Motif Settee Featuring a Two-Masted Schooner
The first American schooner was launched in Gloucester, Massachusetts in 1713, built by Capt. Andres Robinson. The name schooner is legendary, originating from the remark of an admiring bystander who exclaimed at the launch "Oh, how she schoons!" like a stone skimming water. As Capt. Robinson christened a bottle on her bow for its maiden voyage, he proclaimed "Then a schooner let her be!" This rare wicker sailing motif indeed "schoons" across the breadth of the settee backrest, It is believed to be a one of a kind piece of early American wicker, likely to have been privately commissioned for a prosperous sea captain's home. It is a proportionate wicker interpretation of the 2-masted schooners prevalent in the mid-1800s.


Did You Know?
·Cyrus Wakefield (1811-1873) is considered to be the founder of the American wicker industry. In 1840 he purchased rattan in Boston from ships returning from voyages to the Orient. As an innovatice "grre" entrepreneur, he found a new and recycled use for the rattan no longer needed to keep the ship's cargo in place. He established the Wakefield Rattan Co. in South Reading, Massachsetts in 1855.
·On July 4, 1868 South Reading, Massachusetts, originally founded in 1644, changed its name to Wakefield in Cyrus Wakefield's honor.
·Samuel Colt(1814 - 1862), notorious firearms inventor, also manufactured wicker in Hartford, Connecticut. Colt Willow Works was a major producer of woven furniture until 1873 when a disastrous fire destroyed Colt's successful business.
·The 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia was a turning point in the popularity of wicker. The Wakefield Rattan Co. exhibited in the Main Building and captured the interest of an immense number of visitors.
· In the 1880s several sailing vessels including Cyrus Wakefield's three-masted clipper ship, The Hoogly, imported thousands of tons of rattan from Singapore annually for the thriving American wicker industry.
· After many years of fierce competition, the Wakefield Rattan Co. and the Heywood Bros. Co. merged in 1897. The firm Heywood Bros. & Wakefield Co. soon became the largest importers of rattan and the largest producers of wicker furniture in the world.

Chatham Historical Society

The mission of the Chatham Historical Society is to inform and educate present and future generations about the history and culture of Chatham and vicinity by collecting and preserving records of earlier generations and by exhibiting and interpreting art, artifacts, archives, and places of historical interest.

Bar Harbor wicker furniture


Chatham Historical Society, in collaboration with Kathleen and Thomas Tetro of Corner House Antiques of Sheffield MA ( and Mary Jean McLaughlin of Ivorytown, CT.

All photographs and text copywrited CORNER HOUSE ANTIQUES, © 2008

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