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Furniture Manufacturers Association records

 Collection
Identifier: Collection 084

Scope and Contents

The collection provides insight into trademark protection litigation of the 1920s, 30s and 40s; as well as federal anti-trust actions of the 1920s. In addition, the collection documents various economic conditions in the industry such as wage costs, production costs, market trends and shipping costs. Also included are records detailing efforts to recruit, train and keep furniture workers. The photographs show views of factory exteriors and interiors, as well as products of various firms though the views of products generally date to the 1960s and later. The Grand Rapids Airplane Company of World War I, which was composed of most of the area furniture manufacturers, is also depicted. That Company made the Handley-Page bombers, none of which ever flew in battle due to the late entry of the United States into the War.

Dates

  • 1881-1987

Creator

Biographical / Historical

The Furniture Manufacturers Association (FMA) traces its history back to 1881. A group, with this name, was organized in Grand Rapids to:

-obtain equitable freight rates from the railroads

-protect members from disreputable furniture dealers

-obtain reasonable insurance rates

-protect the Grand Rapids furniture label

-and set uniform wage rates.

This association was not very active during the early years and few records were kept. Following the massive labor strikes of 1911, however, the association reorganized and retained staff to pursue the Group's interests. The members formed the FMA Warehouse Company in 1920 to negotiate, as a block, for equitable rates with the various railroads. In addition, this group loaded rail cars for the members. As time went on the Warehouse Co. expanded into providing supplies for the manufacturers, with profits used to offset costs generated by the Manufacturers Association. The directories of the two organizations were tightly inter-locked.

During this same period, the FMA was active in protecting the "Grand Rapids Made" trademark. A series of successful suits were prosecuted against retailers who used "Grand Rapids" in either their names or their advertising without having any Grand Rapids made furniture in their stocks. Also during this period the FMA successfully defended itself against federal anti-trust charges.

Following World War II the FMA also began to concentrate on the problem of the dwindling number of skilled furniture makers. The association began efforts to both recruit and train people for work as furniture makers. During the 1950s these efforts expanded to include providing continuing education for people already employed in the industry. Another effort during this period was collection, assimilation and analysis of market information, to assist members in establishing production goals. These data included economic trends, raw material prices and availability and wage costs.

Another dimension of the FMA was its market function in promoting Grand Rapids made furniture. This included the predominantly semi-annual markets in Grand Rapids, as well as a whole series of promotional literature and press releases on the city, furniture, furniture industry and personalities involved. During the late 1950s, two films were made documenting the industry, one for "Industries on Parade" and the other for the "Arlene Francis Home Show," on television.

In 1981 the FMA celebrated its centennial with an exhibit of furniture similar to the furniture market exhibits that ended in the early 1960s. The association continues to be an advocate for the industry today, but has expanded its membership to include furniture makers and related industries from West Michigan rather than just Grand Rapids.

Extent

46.21 Linear Feet (Over 50 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Overview

The Furniture Manufacturers Association (FMA) was a furniture industry advocacy group in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This collection contains documents relating to the FMA and its predecessor associations. The collection primarily documents the work of the FMA, including minutes, correspondence and other files, publications, training materials, photographs, scrapbooks and some moving images. The bulk of the material dates from after World War I.

The collection provides insight into trademark protection litigation of the 1920s, 30s and 40s; as well as federal anti-trust actions of the 1920s. In addition, the collection documents various economic conditions in the industry such as wage costs, production costs, market trends and shipping costs. Also included are records detailing efforts to recruit, train and keep furniture workers. The photographs show views of factory exteriors and interiors, as well as products of various firms though the views of products generally date to the 1960s and later.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Furniture Manufacturers Association, Hollis Baker. Accession numbers 1988.027 and 1988.031.

Related Materials

Coll. 232 GRPL Furniture Trade Catalog Collection

Coll. 233 GRPL Furniture Industry Collection.

Coll. 017 Widdicomb and John Widdicomb Companies Records.

Coll. 048 Robert W. Irwin Company Records.

Coll. 206 Baker Furniture Company Collection

Coll. 204 Grand Rapids Furniture Designers Association Records

Coll. 225 Sobota Collection. In Process

Coll. 276 GRPL Furniture Design, Designers & Instructors Collection

Coll. 335 Furniture Design Archival Collection, National Literature. The focus of the GRPL Archives is on local history. However, this national collection of pamphlet and ephemeral material has been created, as a complement to the book sources in the Furniture Design Book Collection, which also has a national focus.

Note: Some of the images in this collection are taken by area photo studios which have their own archival collections. See:

Coll. 125 Robinson Studio Collection

Coll. 230 Rooks Photographs Collection
Title
Finding aid for the Furniture Manufacturers Association records
Status
Completed
Author
Richard H. Harms
Date
October 1988
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
111 Library Street NE
Grand Rapids Michigan 49503 USA