The Rockford Furniture Industry

Is there anyone out there with any knowledge of the history of the rockford furniture industry?
If so, we and many other people would like you to e-mail us and we will put it here for all to see. Pictures are welcome...

Thank you for all the emails regarding wanting to know information on your particular piece of furniture.
We are sorry, but we are not antique knowledgable, and therefore, do not know the value or any piece of furniture you may have.
However, if you would like to send a picture, we would be happy to post it on the webpage and hopefully someone who has the knowledge can contact you and give you an answer.

Send pictures and a summary regarding the picture and if you want any or all of the following added to the picture:
    Your name, phone number, fax number, email address, etc.

Mail pictures to us by E-mail

pictures courtesy of: Steve Brambach
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Each piece of furniture has the Red/Black + Gold
"Rockford Chair + Furniture Co" label
We think these were built in the 1920's

The draw pulls, all have the 12 signs of the zodiac on
them with sun in the center with rays going out to the signs.
The handles have the following information on them as well.
Patent Pending
The numbers "832"
and also what looks like an A over an M

photo 1

It was made by Landstrom furniture Co., probably in the 1920's. It was in a house in Los Angeles, CA and was bought from Cannel & Chafin (spelling may not be right).
We would appreciate any further information anyone can give us regarding this furniture. Thank you.
Jack H. Thompson
Contact me at the following:
Phone #: 480/ 905-0711
Fax: 480/ 922-9337

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Can anyone tell me any information on a wash stand that I have.
The lable reads:
The Ross Table - wash-stand, patented and manufactered by Forest City furniture Co, Rockford, IL

Contact me at the following:

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I have a piece of furniture, with a rockford peerless furniture label (in a drawer)
perhaps you could tell me something about it. I would appreciate it.

Contact me at the following:

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This is what it says on the back of the buffet
     from Landstorm Furn Corp 11/52 Rockford ILL.

I believe this is a china buffet it has 4 drawers down the middle 1 drawer on the left if you standing in front of it that has a divider and is lined with velvet and the drawer on the right has a divider and one side is lined with velvet the other is wood under these 2 drawers is a door that opens. All drawers have brass rings and knobs.
Thanks for any help you may have or information.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: lanstrom furniture

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One of the drawers shows a mangled sticker (red, black and gold) with a Rockford logo.
The other shows the complete chest.
Would be interested if anyone can shed some light on the origin or meaning of the woodcut on the front of chest.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: rockford furniture

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Wondering if anyone knows the value of an 8-pc DR "set" from Rockford Superior Furniture Company.
Only the cabinet has a label; "set" is similar in style, not an exact match.
Sally Faust

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: Rockford Superior

photo 1

I have purchased 2 pieces of furniture with a Rockford National
Furniture Company label inside the drawer. I would love to know more
about these pieces as well as the company.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: National Furniture Company

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I am looking for info/date. about the furniture in the pictures. Round metal plate reads
The Empire Ltd. Rockford IL. please e-mail me at

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject:EmpireLtd

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I am sending pictures of a piece of furniture mad by the Skandia Furniture co in Rockford Ill .
are they still in business,I would like to Know more about the Co.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: Skandia

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Requesting any info on the above two items.
Only thing we have on the two items is a Rockford label.
Would like to know year built and approx. worth.
Table has six chairs.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

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I would love any info that anyone could give me about my dining room set.
It consists of a 5 legged table (missing leaves), 6 chairs, a "liquor cabinet" and a buffet.
Made by Landstrom, Rockford Illinois.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

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I have some furniture bought from a company called
Rockford ( Empire Manufacturing Co.) And I was wondering
if anyone could tell me a little bit about it or if there is a
twin set like this one out there.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

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I have recently bought a 7 piece bedroom set with the lable of Rockford Empire MFG.
I was wondering if any one knows how old it is, and how much it is worth.
It is beautiful and we love it. If you have any info please contact me

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

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I inherited a Hanson grandfather clock from my mother. Unfortunately, the movers lost the chime rods.
If anyone has information on replacing the rods I would greatly appreciate it.
They were chrome and had a deep Westminster bong.
I have attached a picture with the rods if it will help.

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

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On the back is the original round, red/yellow company label which reads
Skandia Furniture Co. Rockford, ILL.
I would appreciate receiving any information anyone may have regarding this desk, including the age and value.
Thank you

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

Back in Nov. of 2004 I posted an entry on your website regarding my grandmother's Skandia drop-front desk.
Since then I have received several inquiries regarding Skandia Furniture.
Mr. Jay Moore with the Tampa Tribune Newspaper put a photo of my desk in the paper and wrote the following:

"Rockford was the United States' second-largest furniture production center from the late 1880s to 1940, right behind Grand Rapids, Mich.
Skandia Furniture Co. was in business in Rockford from 1889 to 1941. It specialized in dining room suites and library pieces, including desks and bookcases. It was bought by Superior Sleeprite of Chicago in 1942, which went out of business in 1949.
Your small drop-front desk was made of solids and veneers during the mid-to-late 1920s. Interestingly, the base has a decidedly Victorian look. This could be the result of the factory continuing to use old carving machines. It would retail for about $125.00."


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This dining room set was passed down to me from my grandmother.
She purchased it from a neighbor about 30 years ago.
There is a label on the bottom that reads Central Furniture Co, Rockford, ILL.
The label also says No., Finish and Trimmer but the writing has worn off.
Does anyone have an idea of the year this might have been built?

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

I am looking for information on behalf of the widow of Gordon Hausman, son of Albin Hausman, a furniture maker in Rockford.
The building he worked in was destroyed in the 1928 tornado. Albin was injured.
When he died the cause was listed as consumption, but later proved to be a punctured lung from the tornado.
Albin made a dining room set for himself that includes a sideboard, buffet, glass-door cabinet, table and two plant stands. He died before he could finish the set by making the chairs.
I am looking for which company employed him.
An immigrant from Russia, I believe Albin had other family members in Rockford at the time of his death.
He lived at 3020 Grant Boulevard, and he and his wife Ursula also had a daughter, Ann.
Any help would be appreciated.
Mary Katherine May on behalf of
Jan Hausman

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

photo 1 / photo 2 / photo 3 / photo 4 / photo 5 / photo 6 /

Contact me at the following:
EMail: Subject: furniture pics

  1. photo 1 Rockford Standard Furniture, 10/98
  2. photo 2
  3. photo 3
  4. photo 4

    Railroad pictures

Any furniture link that you think will help, let us know...

  • Value City Furniture

    The Rockford Furniture Industry

    The Swedish immigration in the 19th century had a major impact on Rockford.

    In Sheer Numbers alone, the Swedes were a force to be reckoned with as early as the 1870's, when their population was estimated to be about 3,400 -- or 25 per cent of the city total. Every month after the Civil War they arrived by the hundreds. The first Swedes had lived in a makeshift tent city known as "Kohagen" (literally "cow pasture"). But once they had established a presence in Rockford and found more permanent lodging, the immigrants were able to care for their own new arrivals to a certain extent, and local merchants were attracted to the area to serve them. This was the beginning of a fairly extensive Swedish neighborhood along Kishwaukee Street, which for many people in the Old Country, eventually had a level of name recognition surpassing that of the city itself. It is even alleged that letters and parcels addressed to "Kishwaukee Street, U.S.A" found their way to Rockford.

    Andrew Johnson broadened his product line and organized a new company, Forest City Furniture, with the help of financier Gilbert Woodruff. The business was a combination of Swedish labor and Yankee capital, and it did not work very well for most of its employees, because Woodruff, who served as president and held the company purse strings (Johnson was given the title of "superintendent"), had the habit of cutting wages in order to meet expenses.

    Worker unrest at Forest City led to the formation of the Union Furniture Company in 1876, the first Rockford business on a large scale to be owned and operated entirely by Swedes. It was the real start of the furniture industry here, and it showed the way for other Swedish ventures. A group of Forest City cabinet-makers and machinists had pooled their money to launch the business, and had taken in a few Swedish merchants as investors, while excluding Yankees. Union was organized on a cooperative plan, like the old European craft societies in which workers surrendered a portion of their wages each month as a means of paying expenses. (For this they received additional stock in the company). It was a bootstrap approach that depended on the patience of its members. They signed legal papers, joined hands on a Bible, and (sometimes) followed the Viking custom of pledging themselves in blood.

    The Union Furniture Company and other cooperatives also succeeded because they had the help of P. A. Peterson, an entrepreneurial genius who was the guiding light of the Rockford furniture industry. Peterson started out as the Union bookkeeper, but he was soon forced to take over the management of its daily operations as well.

    With the success of the Forest City and Union Furniture companies, Rockford entered a period of sustained business expansion lasting from 1879 through 1892, as groups of Swedes began to follow suit with other woodworking ventures.

    When John Nelson's old planing mill in the Water Power was destroyed by fire, its owners decided to rebuild a much larger structure on the site in the emulation of the Forest City facility. Some 46 Swedish workers/shareholders contributed $500 each to help finance the construction, and in 1879 the Central Furniture Company was incorporated.

    Central, we should note, was the originator of the famous bookcase/writing desk combination, the "side-by-side", the most popular piece of furniture ever manufactured in this city.
    (A Central employee named Robert Bauch designed it in 1882.)
    The demand for the "side-by-side" turned out to be a benefit to the entire industry, as Central's success produced a number of local imitators and Rockford established itself as the "Bookcase Town" in the eyes of the rest of the trade. (The Central Furniture Company, which was organized by L.D. Upson and E.L. Herrick, was one of the earliest furniture manufacturers in the city).

    A complete account of Peterson's business interests in Rockford would go far beyond the scope of this writing, but a partial list will give some idea of his influence:
    The Union Furniture, Rockford Chair and Furniture, Rockford Mantel, Rockford Folding Bed, Skandia Furniture, Rockford Bookcase, and Rockford Steel Furniture. These he controlled as a stockholder. In addition there were six furniture companies that he made significant contributions to as an investor/manager:

    Standard (later Rockford Standard), West End, Central, Mechanics, Rockford Miter Box, and Hanson Clock.

    The Mechanics Machine Company, later became a founding division of the Borg-Warner Corporation. Two others, Rockford Tool Company and Rockford Milling Machine Company, eventually merged to form Sundstrand Corporation.

    The Rockford Chair & Furniture Company (Plant #3) started at the close of the Civil War. On September 14, 1928, a tornado demolished the Rockford Chair & Furniture Company. There were 14 dead, 36 inujuries, 4 factories, and 360 homes were demolished or damaged, on the Southeast end of Rockford. The tornado struck the southeast side and caused property damage of more than $2,000,000.
    Among the five factories demolished was the Rockford Chair and Furniture Company's Factory B. The Mechanics Machine Co., Elco Tool Co., and Union Furniture company all suffered considerable damage.

    Pehr August Peterson, became known throughout the country as the "Furniture King". He died in 1927, at the age of 81, a multi-millionaire. He was born in Sweden and came to Rockford at the age of six. He went to Wisconsin to work in lumber camps and saw mills, and briefly as a teamster and later bookkeeper in Chicago.
    He returned to Rockford in 1875 at the age of 29 and obtained work in the growing furniture industry. At the age of 30 he helped found and became secretary of the Union Furniture Company on South Main St. He worked days in the factory and kept books at night.

    Soon he acquired an interest in the Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. When times were bad and there was no money to meet payroll, his honesty and integrity enabled him to borrow money from banks and individuals on notes written on scraps of paper.

    Rockford's furniture industry developed following the Civil War but earlier individuals made furniture in a small way. Thomas Johnson, an English cabinetmaker who arrived in Rockford in 1837, is the first of whom there is any record engaged in the furniture business in Winnebago County. He occupied a basement room in the Rockford House but had no machinery and did all of his cabinet work by hand. He later left Rockford.

    In 1853 William Silbe and Abraham Deyo erected a two-story structure between 6th and 7th Streets near 4th Avenue for furniture manufacture. They had little equipment and employed about a dozen men. The enterprise was not too successful and later the firm dissolved.

    A.C. Burpee, although not a manufacturer, was a pioneer in the furniture trade. Burpee, who came to Rockford in 1853, was a salesman for Silbe and Deyo on South 1st streets between State and Walnut Streets.

    In time, the furniture industry came to outrank all others in Rockford from the standpoint of the number of factories and workers employed. By 1905 there were 16 furniture plants employing 4,000 men, nearly one-fourth of the city's work force. In 1926, the furniture industry numbered 38 plants in Rockford.

    Earlier, however, the panic of 1893 played havoc with Rockford's furniture factories, many of which were cooperatively owned in the Swedish tradition and possessing little capital to withstand financial depression. In a single day, 26 factories were wiped out.

    P.A. Peterson was left $300,000 in debt but he stubbornly refused to go into bankruptcy. He pledged repayment of every last penny to doubtful creditors and took to the road as a salesman. In 1896, he was called back by bankers to assist floundering factories and he helped to organize. He did and in a relatively short time had paid off the companies' debts to the banks and the Rockford furniture industry was back on its feet.

    History records that Rockford owes its furniture industry to the disastrous Chicago fire in 1871. Jonas Peters, who had sold furniture for a Chicago manufacturer whose plant burned down, returned to Rockford and his old job in the planing mill of Andrew C. Johnson and J.P. Johnson in the water power district.

    Peters persuaded Johnson and Anderson to make a few articles of furniture. In 1873, L.D. Upson became a partner in the business and Rockford's furniture industry was on its way with a factory build near the southeast corner of Race and Mill Streets. The firm took the name of Upson-Johnson Furniture Co. A year later, Anderson and Johnson withdrew to start the Forest City Furniture Co. on Railroad Ave. Upson's plant burned in 1877 and two years later, with E.L. Herrick, he founded the Central Furniture Company.

    Peters was a partner of John Erlanger, John Pehrsen, James Sundquist and P. A. Peterson in the Union Furniture Company.

    Although in its heyday the Rockford furniture industries made dining room and library furniture, music cabinets, mirrors, hall seats, occasional tables and bedroom furniture, it also produced hall or grandfather clocks at the Hanson Clock Manufacturing Co. founded in 1921. Many of these heirloom pieces exist in Rockford homes.

    The 1929 Lyon Red Book, a directory of business and industry listed 30 furniture manufacturers in Rockford.
    One was Rockford Standard Furniture, organized in 1887 and housed in a four-story factory building at 1100- 11th Street. It made a reputation as a manufacturer of ornate, high-quality china cabinets, bookcases, and buffets.
    Up until 1998, Rockford Standard Furniture Company was the only survivor of all those companies. It survived because Harry West, the general manager of the firm in 1929, sold off the assets of the manufacturing part of the company and turned exclusively to retailing.

    Furniture Companies and their years in Rockford:

    Rockford Cabinet Company:
    1894 To Rockford Furniture Co.
    1869 TO 1887 (name changed to) Rockford Standard Furniture Co.
    1887 TO Skandia Furniture Co.
    1888 TO Landstrom Furniture Co.
    1879 TO 1935 Empire Manufacturing Co.
    1906 TO (name changed to Empire Ltd) Rockford Mantle Co.
    1890 TO 1894 (name change 1905) Rockford Cabinet Co. (new name)
    1905 TO Rockford Superior Furniture Co. Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. (Plant A)
    1882 TO 9/14/28 (Closed due to Tornado) (Plant B) After Civil War



    Thank you Joyce Geeser for the information.

    More will be added to this page as the information is found.
    Please return later when we have more information with regard to the Rockford Furniture industry. Thank you.
    (Note: we wanted to at least inform you of what we found, to date, because of all the email requests we have received).

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