In 1803, Sheraton could say that the furniture trade was 'one of the leading mechanical professions in every polite nation in Europe'. It is still often considered that the so-called 'Industrial Revolution' brought furniture-making into a factory situation during the nineteenth century, which, combined with the use of machines, dramatically changed the way furniture was made over the period. This is not the case, although there were undoubtedly some changes. The enduring nature of the trade and its attitudes to change were such that new methods were only espoused if they contributed to profitability. Technological change was not necessary while the older ways met the demand. This is not to say that factories did not exist, simply that there was no dramatic change from one system to another; it was rather a gradual process that is still not really complete.
In England the rise of wholesalers and retail outlets which gradually took over from the comprehensive manufacturing firms was a major feature, and confirmed the separation of maker and seller. In France, the trade was centred on Paris, often with businesses run by German cabinetmakers alongside French ones. The businesses of Joseph-Emanuel Zwiener and François Linke were two of the most well known. By the 1880s there were around 17,000 workers in the Paris industry alone. By 1790 the marking of goods was no longer a requirement, following the disbandment of the guilds, but was revived in the early nineteenth century by makers stamping furniture or engraving the brass-work with the firm's name. Rather than a guild control, the stamp was a promotional device encouraged by retailers.
The main input by Austria during the nineteenth century was the development of the bentwood furniture industry. By 1900, the Thonet company employed 6000 workers producing 4000 pieces per day and there were another 25,000 workers employed in Austria alone in other bentwood businesses.
Publications remained an important part of the trade's network and are indicative of the conservative approach to design. In 1788 the Cabinet-Makers' Book of Prices was published and was reissued throughout the nineteenth century. In 1802 came the London Chair-makers' and Carvers' Book of Prices. In 1803 Thomas Sheraton's Cabinet Dictionary was published and in 1829 Thomas King brought out The Modern Style of Cabinet Work Exemplified. This was reissued unaltered in 1862, testimony to conservative style. In 1833, Loudon's Encyclopaedia of Cottage Farm and Villa Architecture was produced. Later in the century the decorators and pundits of various styles wrote 'how to decorate' books. These included works by Charles Eastlake, Clarence Cooke, Ogden Codman and Edith Wharton, Christopher Dresser as well as a growing number of magazines and journals.
One of the most important developments in the United States was the expansion of the furniture industry into the mid-west and southern states. Improved transportation and an abundance of water and timber in states such as Indiana, Illinois and Ohio meant that firms like Mitchell and Rammelsburg of Cincinnati or whole cities like Chicago or Grand Rapids and (later) South Carolina and High Point could trade with the East and West Coast centres successfully.
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