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Grand Rapids in 1856

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Furniture City History.org


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Limbert, Charles P. Co.

1894 - 1944

Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan

SEE ALSO Kingman & Limbert Co. (Listed below)

COMPANY HISTORY       

Pre-1894: Klingman & Limbert Co. serve as sales agents for other manufacturers

1894: Charles Limbert starts a new company to manufacture chairs, and continues as a sales agent for other manufacturers.

1902: Company begins production of its “Dutch Arts and Crafts” Line.

1906: Factory moves from Grand Rapids to Holland, but showrooms remain in Grand Rapids.

1923: Charles Limbert dies.

1944: Furniture no longer made under the Limbert Name.

PERSONNEL

Prior to his entry into furniture manufacturing, Charles Limbert had extensive experience in the sale of furniture. His father had been a furniture dealer, and Charles worked as a salesman for a company in Indiana and the famous J.A. Colby Co. of Chicago. In 1889 Limbert formed a partnership with another salesman, Philip J. Klingman. Together they served as sales agents for several manufacturers, and leased showroom space to out-of-town companies at the Grand Rapids Furniture Market. While the partnership dissolved in 1892, Limbert continued to represent other manufacturers for more than a decade. Limbert made frequent trips to the centers of the European Arts and Crafts Movement, and to the Netherlands, to study historical furniture styles and modern furniture production.

The man who designed Limbert’s most sophisticated pieces may have been Austrian-trained William J. Gohlke. According to Don Marek’s Arts and Crafts Design: The Grand Rapids Contribution, he designed for the company at least between 1909 and 1914, and became a vice-president in 1921. He was likely familiar with the Vienna Secessionist Movement, and its influence can be clearly seen in Limbert’s Arts and crafts designs.

D.B.K. Van Raalte appeared as part of the sale force at Limbert by 1916, and became one of the controlling officers upon Charles Limbert’s death in 1923. Van Raalte apparently gained even greater control, because by 1927 ads and the company logo read “Limbert Furniture, By Van Raalte Craftsmen”.

PRODUCTS

Little is known about the company’s early designs. Oak chairs bearing the label of Klingman & Limbert surface occasionally, with straight slats and small cutouts that indicate an early movement toward Mission and folk-inspired design.

In 1902 Limbert introduced its “Dutch Arts and Crafts” line, which came in oak and ash, with fumed finishes and leather or woven hickory-bark upholstery. It resembled other American Mission lines, but was influenced instead by Dutch peasant furniture. Limbert was also a sales agent for the Old Hickory Chair Co., and many of the outdoor and porch furniture designs in the Dutch Arts and Crafts “Summer Line” have that same rustic feel. This prompted use in many lodges and summer homes, including the hotels at Yellowstone. Though lines were simple, some earlier pieces included Art Nouveau-style leaded and colored art glass, inly, pyrotechnics (burn marks), or cutout decorations.

Between 1904 and about 1910, designs became more severe and innovative, reflecting more influence from the Austrian Secessionists and perhaps the Prairie School in Chicago. Pieces were devoid of decoration, except for geometric cutouts set against strong, dramatic angles. From 1910 forward some refinement of these designs continued, but with less innovation. An exception is the Austrian-inspired “Ebon-Oak” line introduced in 1915, which featured simple inlaid squares on crests and stiles.

Limbert began to produce “original interpretations” of period revival styles in 1916, though its Arts and Crafts line lasted at least through 1918. The company offered dining suites in the standard array of 17th- and 18th-century English styles, as well as an Italian Polychrome suite, which are indistinguishable from similar pieces by other manufacturers.

OTHER SOURCES

A number of Limbert catalogs have been reprinted in recent years, including the 1903 Catalog, published by Dover and the Public Museum; The Fall 1905 Catalog and “Catalog #1090,” published by The American Life Foundation; and “Catalogs #112 and 119,” by Turn of the Century Publications.

MARKS AND LABELS

Klingman & Limbert made use of an elliptical white paper label with blue lettering. The insignia of a furniture worker at his bench appeared with the Arts and Crafts lines, as a burn mark or a paper label. Between 1902 and 1905 the mark mentions Grand Rapids as the sole location; from 1906 forward it reads “Grand Rapids and Holland”. The logo with the 1915 ads for the “Ebon-Oak” line featured the same worker, but wearing Dutch wooden shoes instead of 20th-century footwear. With the change from Mission to Period Revival came a change on the logo, from the words “Arts and Crafts Furniture” to simply “Cabinet Makers”. Sometime in the mid-1920s this was replaced by the words “By Van Raalte Craftsmen”.

 

Klingman & Limbert Chair Company

1889 – 1892

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Sales agent for other manufacturers; manufacturer of English Arts and Crafts-style chairs and rockers.

 

The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998. 

Full Details

TitleLimbert, Charles P. Co.
AddressGrand Rapids, MI
Year Opened1894
Year Closed1944


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