When it comes to Antique Mission Furniture, most people think of it as part of the American Arts and Crafts movement. What they may not know is that it actually began in England, thanks to the discontent of a young, independently wealthy Englishman named William Morris (1834 – 1896). Morris was an educated man, who was a writer, a poet, an artist and a social reformer.
His passion for creating beauty in everything he did led to his frustration with the Industrial Revolution, which, in his opinion, had not lived up to its promise of making life better for the common working man. He considered much of the furniture, clothing, art and embellishments of the Victorian age to be frivolous and useless. His discontent with these poorly manufactured products is what eventually led to him opening his own company. The firm of ‘Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company’ was dedicated to ‘the practice of the decorative arts’.
It was in 1865 that his company produced the chair that guaranteed his place in history – the ‘Morris’ chair.
When it comes to antique Mission furniture, people often ask if age has to with their value. That’s only partly the case. The value of antique Mission furniture stays so high because it maintains its beauty, durability and usefulness. There is still a demand for real antique Mission furniture and pieces can be found in auctions and high end antique shops all across the U.S. and Canada.
Many of the pieces of Stickley furniture at Manderley Manor here in Toronto are reproductions of the antique Mission furniture of Stickley, Morris and Ellis. These pieces have been faithfully reproduced – using the same craftsmanship and careful attention to detail that have made Mission furniture so popular for over 100 years.
If you’re looking for real antique Mission furniture, one of the things you will want to keep an eye out for is the mark of the craftsman. In the case of Gustav Stickley’s antique Mission furniture, for example, there was always a paper label or decal (transfer) in black or red. It can usually be found in an inconspicuous place – such as on the bottom or back of a drawer, or under a seat.
The Arts and Crafts movement made a lasting impression on the furniture industry and in the hearts and minds of the people who love antique Mission furniture.