Last updated on October 17th, 2022 at 05:11 pm
250 Years of Woodworking and Furniture Making in Vermont
Last year we had so much interest from customers about the history of Vermont made furniture, we started an encyclopedia of sorts. Did you know that Vermont furniture making history can be traced back to the 17th century? And by the 18th century almost every town in Vermont had woodworkers making furniture, tools and utensils.
Wood products became the single most important manufacturing industry in Vermont during the 19th century. It was then that Vermont made furniture and wood products began their long history of export to customers all over the U.S. and abroad. Wood furniture, wooden cutting boards and bowls, bowling pins, baskets, drumsticks, toys, musical instruments, golf tees, cheese boxes, wooden dolls, gun racks, Scrabble tiles, snowshoes, clothes pins, and wooden shipping boxes were (and continue to be) all products of a thriving Vermont woodworking industry.
Forest To Furniture
Perhaps the biggest contributor to a growing fine furniture industry was the Green Mountain Forest which covered 90% of Vermont in the 1760s. In the 1700s Vermont contained extensive forests of various tree species that were 6 feet in diameter and as high as thirteen-story buildings; some more than 300 years old. Wood created an identity for many Vermont towns that became known for logging, lumber mills, and a continuous succession of wood products manufacturers.
Woodworking Built Many Vermont Communities
In some towns, the Vermont made furniture and wood industries provided income for the majority of the population. Technology and products changed with the times to increase production and efficiency, meet market demand, and capitalize on popular trends and tastes. Owners of the mills and factories became community leaders who took responsibility for the commercial and civic growth of their towns.
Notable Vermont Woodworkers and Furniture Makers
Craftsmen hailing from Wilmington, Norwich, Middlebury, Shaftsbury, Rutland, Charlotte, Putney and Bennington were among the master craftsmen of 18th and 19th century Vermont. Some prominent luxury, custom furniture makers of the time include: George Stedman of Norwich, Vermont, c. 1800-20, Asahel (b. 1759) and Martin (1778-c. 1830) Cheney of Putney, Vermont, 1798-1803, Hastings Warren (1779-1845), of Middlebury, Vermont and Levi Pitkin (1774-1854) of Montpelier, Vermont, c. 1800. Their work adorned the homes and offices of the world’s rich and famous.
H.T. Cushman Furniture in North Bennington, VT was one of the most prominent furniture companies in America, opening their colonial furniture business in 1892 and exporting from Vermont to the rest of the United States and overseas. Vermont Tubbs and Manchester Wood were two other companies that led the furniture making industry in Vermont towards the ecosystem of talented craftsmen that it is now.
Vermont Tubbs (1840-2013)
Vermont Tubbs was founded in 1840 and spent close to 170 years manufacturing wood furniture in Brandon, VT. In the early 2000’s, the company was generating an estimated $16 million per year and employed 250+ people, but it was struggling to turn a profit.
Vermont Tubbs furniture operated mostly as a wholesale business, selling swaths of furniture to retail stores all over the country, including LL Bean, Jordan’s Furniture, Bloomingdales, Restoration Hardware, and Crate & Barrel.
The brand was known for high quality craftsmanship, solid wood construction, and traditional designs.
Learn more about Vermont Tubbs.
HT Cushman Manufacturing Company (1886-1980)
The H.T. Cushman Manufacturing Company was founded in 1886 and spent close to 100 years building furniture in Bennington, Vermont. The company began by building coat racks, pencil boxes, hat hangers, and more, but soon became well known for their furniture.
The business was sold to General Industries in 1964 by Hall W. Cushman, the third generation of the Cushman family to manage the business. In 1971 the facility was sold to Green Mountain Furniture Co, which subsequently went out of business in 1980.
Learn more about HT Cushman.
Manchester Wood (1976-2018)
Manchester Wood was founded in 1976 and spent 42 years manufacturing solid wood furniture in the state of Vermont. At its peak, the company was generating $8-12 million per year in revenue and employed close to 200 people.
The founder, Clifford “Cliff” Pierce, built Manchester Wood into a multi-million dollar business by selling in bulk to retailers across the country. He had over 300 wholesale clients including LL Bean, Crate & Barrel, JC Penney, Sears, Pottery Barn, Macy’s, and more.
The business was known for building high-quality, solid wood furniture. The most popular products were mission style bookcases and sofa tables, adirondack chairs, and folding desks and tray tables. It was a multi-generation family business.
Learn more about Manchester Wood.
Copeland Furniture is one of Vermont’s most recognizable high-end furniture brands. Since 1976, Tim Copeland and his family have been building a reputation for world-class furniture in a variety of crisp, clean designs.
Based in Bradford, Vermont, Copeland specializes in mid-century modern wood furniture. In their own words, Copeland calls their furniture “transitional. Neither strictly contemporary nor traditional but rather a combination of elements that incorporate classic proportion with modern simplicity.”
Learn more about Copeland Furniture.
The story of Lyndon Furniture is as good a reflection of the history and values of Vermont as you’ll find anywhere. After Dave Allard graduated high school in 1976, he began working on his family farm. He built his first few pieces of furniture in a house that he built himself for his parents to move into. After furnishing that house, he set his sights on building a new workshop. He built his first woodworking shop in Lyndon, VT from timber he cut down on the family farm and milled locally.
Lyndon now employs over 100 craftsmen in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Their furniture is made with real solid wood and built to last a lifetime and then some.
Learn more about Lyndon Furniture.
Maple Corner Woodworks
Robin Chase, the founder and master craftsman at Maple Corner Woodworks, is a true visionary when it comes to furniture design. It’s easy to see how this quaint workshop nestled in small-town Vermont consistently produces some of the finest furniture made anywhere in the world.
Striving towards and adhering to the highest standards in quality, consistency, and design, Robin’s creations are uniquely his own. Many consider Robin a generational woodworking talent, and it is not uncommon for us to fill an entire house full of his work.
Learn more about Maple Corner Woodworks.
Vermont Furniture Designs
Founded by master craftsman Arthur Weitzenfeld in 1970 and now co-owned by his studies Adam Blaisdell and Rob Bachand, Vermont Furniture Designs produces some of the highest quality furniture in the state.
Learn more about Vermont Furniture Designs.
Where To View or Purchase Vermont Antique Furniture
Antique dealers throughout the Green Mountain State display relics of the early Vermont furniture industry. The Shelburne Museum, Bennington Museum and Skinner Auctioneers have recently showcased Vermont made furniture collections and pieces from the 18th and 19th centuries. Check out the Vermont Wood Manufacturer’s Association website for further information about the history of woodworking in Vermont.