H. T. Cushman

Civil War soldier, inventor and manufacturer of Cushman furniture

New Book, Available Now

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEThe Cushman Furniture Reference is available now, https://www.createspace.com/6110625.

See pages and links to purchase at http://cushmanreference.com

Page Count:398
Binding Type:US Trade Paper
Trim Size:8.5″ x 11″
Language:English
Color:Full Color with Bleed
Related Categories:Antiques & Collectibles / Furniture

What kind of wood?

 

There is some misunderstanding of the woods used by Cushman Manufacturing on the web. I think the mistake is that someone thought that Maple Finish meant the furniture was made of maple wood. But it probably was not.

Looking at early catalogs, in the late 1800s and very early 1900s, Cushman used oak for their Rod & Ball and Mission styles of furniture. In 1922, while they continued to use oak, Cushman also used yellow birch—finishing it to look like other woods, such as “imitation mahogany” finish.

While there is a mention of maple in addition to birch in the catalogs of the 1929-1932, birch is still used (with maple, walnut, enamel finishes and five-ply veneers of mahogany or walnut). Once Colonial Creations was released in 1933, yellow birch is used exclusively. And, at first the only finish available was Cushman Maple. Cushman explained it in about 1943 in their booklet, Suggestions for Decorating a Colonial Home, page 11:

decorating

“Yellow Birch is preferable to maple because it is harder, stiffer, stronger, heavier, and because it takes a much better finish. The beauty of the grain is superior to maple. Also, birch has a greater bending strength and a lower factor of shrinkage. These facts are brought out by exhaustive tests made by the United States Forest Products Laboratories.”

Some Catalog Mentions of Wood Use:

1894               Polished Oak
1903               Selected Oak
1922               Oak, Yellow Birch (imitation mahogany finish)
1927               Birch
1928               Birch
1929               Maple, Birch
1932               Maple, Birch, five-ply veneers of Mahogany or Walnut
1933               Yellow Birch

One of my favorite pieces for sale

 

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One of my favorite pieces of furniture is for sale. If you live in Florida or are willing to blanket ship, this is a Cushman classic. The Woodford Dresser No. 4-179 was manufactured between 1934-1941. (Cushman also offered a hutch top for it, not available here.) The dresser features the handle design patented by Herman E. DeVries in 1934, D94120, which he assigned to Cushman so it is unique to their furniture. It also has the beautiful hinges and hardware of the period. It is a beautiful piece of furniture. We have two to use as sideboards and serving storage on opposite walls of a restored stone summer kitchen. If you buy it, bring help because it is a hefty piece, even after removing the drawers. The pictures of the dresser and number plate are the piece for sale. The two close-ups are from my own Woodford Dressers.

I don’t know what they are asking for it. Give them a call: Daily Bread Thrift Shop, Melbourne, Florida, 321-676-2900.

Cushman Catalogs Online

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We spent some time this past spring scanning the H. T. Cushman catalogs and ephemera in the collection of the Bennington Museum as part of our research for our next book, Cushman Furniture Reference 1886-1964. The Bennington Museum is the single best source of Cushman archival information. We gave them the digital files and they have put them online: http://bennington.pastperfectonline.com/bycreator?keyword=H.T.+Cushman+Manufacturing+Company

What is the value of Cushman?

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Right now, most Cushman pieces are not commanding interest nor high prices. I have, however, gotten into bidding wars at auctions over certain pieces—so it is not all Cushman that has low value. On a recent trip to Bennington, Vermont we stopped and talked to an auctioneer who often has Cushman pieces in his sales. When I asked him about values he said that the 2002 Bradley William’s book was still accurate. I guess the market rose and fell and it has not recovered beyond where it was when the bottom fell out in 2008.

MaxSold offers a hopeful note in an ebook about estate sales. “The highest value items are American furniture pieces. In fact, handmade furniture or pieces manufactured in very small numbers, can be worth a fortune.” Everyone knows Stickley but very few people know about Cushman. In the Arts and Crafts world, most true collectors look down their noses at Cushman and its bolted style Mission. I contacted David Rago recently and received the reply that, “Our specialist has asked me to let you know that unfortunately, we don’t handle Cushman.”

Hmmm. So how has this affected me? I personally have a deep interest in Cushman. There are lines that I don’t care for and there are pieces that I love. I am interested in the designers and in Henry Cushman’s ingenuity and impact on his company to produce interesting and well-made furniture. It was made once upon a time and will be no more. Most of the people who made many of the lines are gone. The factory makes plastic coat hangers, the Cushman show house is in shambles. But here and there you can find a gem of a piece of Cushman that has survived in good shape. You can find a piece from a design that was produced only for a year or two. You can even find pieces that were never produced except for special clients.

My bottom line is that Cushman is not valued at this time, but I think that it is because people do not know about it. Cushman has a wonderful story— a Civil War story, a family story, a New England story. Cushman themselves called their furniture the antiques of tomorrow—and that is the way that they built them.

Caption: This table and chairs is a diminutive set created for the Bennington Free Library and can be found in the Children’s Room. It is a miniature of the adult chairs found upstairs in the reading area with Cushman trestle tables.

I would love to find…

Do you have a Cushman wish list? Lately I am looking for tables from the Cushman Contemporary line. They would have been manufactured about 1955-56, in a light finish.433 434 435

If you have one to sell, please let me know susan.bonser@gmail.com

Who Dunnit?

It was (and still is) a common practice for furniture companies to copy successful furniture. In the case of Cushman, some of the designers were hired freelance and not on staff, so they often designed for other companies at the same time. The result is that there may be some confusion about the Cushman “look” and furniture not made by the company is often attributed to it.

One example is the style of Herman De Vries. He designed for Cushman starting in 1933. He also designed for Sikes about the same time. From Sikes Colonist Craft line, I have selected these pieces and compare them to the Cushman pieces that they remind me of. If you are a DeVries collector you are probably happy. If you are a Cushman collector you have to look for the identification. But Cushman gave us a clear path to knowing their products by tagging them and tattooing them with their model number and name.

1. cushman-3-35-2

Cushman

1.-sikes-gametable

Sikes

2. cushman-5-105

Cushman

2. sikes-endtable

Sikes

3-cushman-81803

Cushman

3. sikes-paddle

Sikes

 

Bankruptcy and Ingenuity

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In 1931, Cushman’s three sons were running the business and it was on the verge of bankruptcy. They took salary reductions and made other concessions to keep it afloat. They also used their ingenuity to try to keep the business going. One strategy was releasing a group of small, occasional tables in 1932. They were marketed to gift shops as well as traditional furniture retail outlets. Cushman’s son William (who they called Big Bill) patented a simple way to assemble the tables. The Cushman’s promoted that they could ship 10 tables in the same dimension box as one set-up table to cut costs—and the patented system made it very easy for the retailer to set up the tables. The legs slide into a channel and a single screw held them in place.

Quirkly little Cushman lamp

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This quirky little Cushman table lamp shows up in the first catalog of Colonial Creations items in 1933 (first photo) and never again. It is not even listed in the Bradley William’s Complete Reference Guide to Cushman Colonial Creations—he skips from 3-192 to 3-194L in his database.  This lamp is number 3-193L. Overall height is about 22 inches. The lampshade is not original but the form is seen at a much larger scale in several floor lamps from the line.

Cushman table info… Can you help?

709 0108

 

 

 

 

 

I received a request for info on this table. What you have is a very popular and distinctly Cushman form of table, often used at either end of a couch or next to a chair. The three-shelf magazine table was a form that Cushman presented throughout their years. Though Cushman built many of their successful line of smoking tables, produced from the teens through the 1930s, with magazine racks or shelves, the first configuration I have seen of a similar three-shelf table was Number 709. It was a magazine stand and coffee table in the 1932 Furniture Specialties catalog made in ribbon mahogany veneer. They continued to sell the style as an Occasional Piece in the 1933 catalog but also introduced a three-shelf nail box book table, Number 3-3, in the radically new Colonial Reproductions line. It lasted only two years. Your model design, the Number 0108 -Three Shelf News Table, came into the line from 1940 until the time the company was sold in 1964. Even as long as 1976, when Pennsylvania House then owned the Cushman name, they continued to produce the three-shelf news stand. Your label and design indicates yours was produced during the years Cushman owned the factory and was manufacturing in Vermont.

Now for the second label. The J. B. Van Sciver Company was a furniture manufacturer and retailer. Retailers often put their own labels on Cushman furniture, so that is not unusual. Cushman did try having other companies manufacture their designs when demand became overwhelming for the small Vermont factory, but it was unsuccessful. I found reference to a furniture manufacturer constructing the wood and sending it back to Cushman for the finish—their unique finish was impossible for other companies to do well. So, I doubt J. B. Van Sciver manufactured your tables. I think they were just retailing the line.

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