|Source: NMHS Newsletter Nov 2004
Early Furniture Making in Indiana
early years of settlement, Indiana was blessed with a
good variety of trees and lumber suitable for the
manufacture of furniture. Many of the early craftsmen
bought lumber from the east with them also. The 1850
census listed 1872 men in the State with occupations of
chairmaker or cabinetmaker. Of these, thirty-four were
in Wabash county and eight in Chester township.
powered in several ways. Some were powered by a dog
walking inside a wheel. A few were powered by water.
Perhaps horse power was most common. The earliest
furniture makers settled along the Ohio and the Wabash.
Some were active before Indiana became a State in 1816.
The list of articles which were made is impressive and
could be summarized by saying they made everything used
in the house and on the farm. Rolling pins were a common
order from a housewife, or a cradle or a case for a
clock. Chairs were the most common furniture need and
some men only made chairs. Orders for coffins may have
led to the custom of combining furniture making with
craftsmen specialized in making handles using ash
lumber. The Baldwin Handle company in North Manchester
was active into the early 1900s when the local supply of
ash was exhausted.
establishments experienced disastrous fires before the
days of better fire control.
this early furniture has no identifying marks; others
have initials carved into the wood on the inside or back
of the object. In general, the quality of craftsmanship
compared favorably with that being done in eastern
states and some shows the marks of excellent skills.