Sligh Furniture Co.
1880 - 1932
Grand Rapids, Michigan
SEE ALSO Charles, R. Sligh Co.
1880: Charles R. Sligh founds Sligh Furniture Co.
1883 – 1888: Sligh operates Honduras Mahogany Co.
1895 – 1896: Sligh manufactures bicycles alongside furniture
1932: Sligh furniture Co. liquidates assets and closes its doors.
Charles R. Sligh founded the company in 1880, after working for Berkey & Gay as a finisher and traveling salesman in 1874. In 1883 Charles R. Sligh traveled to Central America, and established the Honduras Mahogany Co., which purchased mahogany timber in Honduras, cut it in New Orleans, and shipped it to Grand Rapids. After the economic crisis depression of 1893, Sligh diversified his manufacturing interests into bicycles as well as furniture. The bicycle operation was merged in 1896 with another manufacturer from Ohio to form the Hamilton-Kenwood Cycle Co. Beginning in 1903 Sligh formed other lumber companies, including the Charles Sligh Timber Co., the Clark-Sligh Timber Co., and the Grand Rapids Timber Com., which invested in timberlands in the U.S. Northwest. These separate companies lasted until the late 1940s. Sligh was a founding member of the Furniture Manufacturers Association of Grand Rapids and was elected to the state senate in 1924. He remained active as president of the company until his death in 1927.
Upon the death of the company’s founder, his son-in-law Norman McClave who had been active in the company since 1907, became president, and Charles R. Sligh, Jr. became treasurer. O.W. Lowry became an active voice in cutting production costs after 1929, in an attempt to keep the company solvent after the stock market crash.
Frenchman Rene Guenaux came to Sligh as a designer in 1912, and continued through the 1910s.
The company’s first products were inexpensive, asymmetrical walnut bureaus with mirrors. In 1882 Sligh introduced matched bedroom suites. Sligh also made chiffoniers, wardrobes, dressers, and other bedroom occasional pieces in maple, curly birch, mahogany, and oak. Sligh bedroom suites were owned by presidents Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison. Sligh began making a line of case goods from Circassian walnut in 1900, and by 1908 the popular line had become a top seller.
Though never considered an “Arts and Crafts” producer, Sligh made at least one notable suite in that style. In 1907 Sligh produced a solid gumwood bedroom suite designed by John E. Brower, with a striking contrasting finish of amber and malachite green. Its functional design was completely unornamented except for circular and oval lily-of-the valley drawer pulls, and delicate lily cut-outs on the bed. The pieces’ gently rounded lines seem more akin to the Moderne movement of the late 1920s than to the other French and Colonial-influenced furniture made by Sligh in 1907.
During World War I, Sligh Furniture Co. made walnut gun stocks for the military.
By the mid-1920s Sligh billed itself as the “largest manufacturer of furniture exclusively for the bedroom in the world.” From the 1910s through the mid-1920s it offered more than 80 different bedroom suites and 11 dining room suites, in a wide range of period revival styles including Sheraton, Louis XVI, Jacobean, Italian Renaissance, Austrian Baroque, and Dutch 17th Century. Several of the suites also featured an enameled or painted finish, with hand-painted decoration.
A collection of Sligh family papers is a part of the Michigan Historical Collections of the University of Michigan. Bulletin #29 of the Michigan Historical Collections, entitled A Furniture Family: The Slighs of Michigan, was written by Francis Blouin and Thomas E. Powers and published in 1980. Another illustrated history by Blouin, entitled 100 Years: A Great Beginning. Sligh Furniture Co. 1880 – 1980, was published by the Sligh Furniture Co. in 1979.
MARKS AND LABELS
From the 1910s through the early 1930s the trademark was the name “SLIGH” in vertical serif block letters, with the “S” and “H” in a larger size, over “FURNITURE CO.” in small type. It was enclosed in a rectangular outline, and often overprinted with “GRAND RAPIDS MICHIGAN”.
Transcriber: Susan Hopkins
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.
|Title||Sligh Furniture Co.|
|Address||Grand Rapids, MI|