Friday, August 13, 2010

1956 Linear Group 497 Coffee Table and 496 Room Divider manufactured by the Imperial Furniture Co. of Grand Rapids, MI

If you are as familiar with Paul McCobb's work as I am you will know that these pieces are infrequently tagged with the familiar Calvin Furniture tags as are all of the other designs from the Linear Group. Most every example I have ever seen is unlabeled. This lack of a label bothered me from time to time, I just didn't understand why this particular piece would occasionally show up unlabeled.

Back in June I found the answer while going through the paperwork for a show that Paul McCobb did. I didn't realize at the time that I had found the answer, it was just another tidbit of information to go into the research archive for later consumption.

In 1958 Paul McCobb put together a show for the American Federation of Artists titled "Kaleidoscope - Changing aspects of American Design 1875 - 1960". The show was a traveling pictorial display detailing the evolution of American furniture towards Contemporary and was shown around the US and in Canada from 1959 to 1960.

In the paperwork for the show there is a entry on page 6 of the catalog list, the text, boxed in red, is quoted below the image:

"PAUL McCOBB - room divider linear group. Imperial
Furniture Co., Grand Rapids, Mich."
(Scan courtesy of American Federation of Arts.)

Referencing the very same untagged room divider I have sitting in my Living Room.

Never having heard of the Imperial Furniture Co. before and certainly never having heard of it in any relationship to Paul McCobb I did what any untrained, undisciplined, and disorganized researcher would do. I promptly forgot all about it.

More recently, while researching in the woodworking trade publications of the 1950's I came across an interesting article about the Bergsma Bros. (Julius and Kenneth), owners of the Calvin Furniture Co., who manufactured so much of Paul McCobb's 1950's output that the name Calvin Furniture has become almost synonymous with Paul McCobb. In the article it was mentioned that the Bergsma's had purchased Imperial Furniture Co. in 1955.

Now I wish I could say I had a sudden epiphany reading this, but the truth is I didn't. I scanned and filed the article and thought nothing more of it. (There are a LOT of articles in my research archive, several thousand in fact.) It wasn't until days later that I started thinking about the other Imperial Furniture Co. reference that I had collected. Finally the pieces settled into place!

Why doesn't this Linear Group room divider have a Calvin Tag? Because it wasn't manufactured by Calvin Furniture. It was manufactured by Calvin Furniture's sister company, Imperial Furniture, who never had a "designed by Paul McCobb" tag of their own.

Later production models manufactured by Calvin Furniture are tagged above the top shelf and have subtle though marked differences in their construction.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Timeline Moved

Moved the timeline post to it's own page. Click on the tab above to easily get to the new timeline page.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

1951 Directional Modern #1699 Corner Table

A true rarity!

A genuine Paul McCobb Directional Modern #1699 Corner Table by Furnwood Corp. of Brockton, MA circa 1951

To the best of my knowledge no pieces from this group have ever come to auction. There's almost no documentation whatsoever for this earliest of Paul McCobb's furniture designs barring a single reference on pg. 128 of William J. Hennessey's indispensable "Modern Furnishings for the Home" (reprinted by Acanthus Press in 1997) and an unattributed image of the table along with two early Paul McCobb chairs (also unattributed) in a photo depicting a new Karagheusian carpet in the March 1952 issue of Furniture Age pg. 44.

The legs and structure are solid Honduran Mahogany and the top is of Honduran Mahogany veneered Plywood which is unusual for Paul McCobb's designs as they were most frequently of hardwoods, veneered or solid.

The scale of it astonishes me, the table is 34" (l) x 34" (w) x 24" (h). Huge! Shown here in the Cordovan finish, it was also available in Paul McCobb's signature Sandrift, a custom finish developed by Sherwin Williams for Paul McCobb specific to his use of green toned Honduran Mahogany, a Black Lacquer finish was another option. It's interesting to note that the Sandrift finish predates the 1952 Irwin Collection where it is best known.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Timeline Addition and Change

Added Daryl Products to 1962

Changed the 1962 Alside entry to reflect new information

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Timeline Changes

Moved Blair Series 690 Chairs from 1962 to 1961

Added Mutschler Series 800 Office Arrangements to 1961

Monday, August 2, 2010

Timeline Updated

Added entries for a carpet that Paul McCobb designed for Edward Fields in 1959 and an entry for Alside Inc. a manufacturer of Prefab Aluminum Houses starting in 1962.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Spent the day today with Paul McCobb's daughter Melissa and her husband Andrew sorting through a recently re-discovered archive of her father's design work (it's amazing what you can find in the attic some days).

The upshot is I now have in my possession several project reference binders, chock full of press photos, furniture catalogs, and 35mm color slides put together by Paul McCobb himself as a reference for his work.

It is an incredible cornucopia of new and better information+ new and better images.

But it's only on loan so I will need to make quick work of it, scanning and cataloging all the new information.

The Gift Craft office set is in it and the Electro-Voice Organ (both of which I had been having a very hard time finding elsewhere); Mutschler, Blair, Lane, Widdicomb and Paul McCobb showroom catalogs, plus the 1955 Executive Office catalog. There are real surprises in here, things that I did not even suspect existed (no pictures of any globes though...) and a good concise reference for pretty much everything Paul McCobb had ever designed.

I'll be sure to put up some more new stuff soon as I get all of this info bagged and tagged.

Thanks for a great day Melissa!