The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
Jamestown's heritage of furniture manufacturing was reinforced when William Maddox arrived in Jamestown.
In the collection at the Fenton History Center are various catalogs showing the products from Maddox and other companies. Seen above is a desk made by Maddox as part of its colonial reproduction line.
Prior to his arrival, he had invented a machine that was able to produce a fine wooden table top at a reasonable cost. Before this, wooden table tops were all hand-finished with a great amount of time sanding and rubbing to produce a fine tabletop. His machine was able to produce a fine finish on a tabletop without the labor intensive work. Using his machine, Maddox began the Maddox Table Company in 1898.
The first location on Harrison Street was where the company remained into the 1980s, when it was owned by Crawford Furniture - and eventually the plant was no longer used.
In the early years, Maddox made a variety of tables. Salesmen for a while were equipped with knock down tables that fit in a box that was easily carried into a store and the tables would be set up to show the quality of the products of Maddox Table Company. Eventually, Maddox became known for the colonial reproductions that were featured in their line as it expanded from tables to include other furniture.
Maddox sold furniture across the country and around the world. The Fenton History Center receives many requests for information about the company and about specific products that have been inherited or purchased at an antique store. In the collection at the Fenton History Center are various catalogs showing the products from Maddox and other companies. There are few examples of Jamestown furniture in the collection because of the space that would be required to store and exhibit representative pieces from the many companies, and few people want to give up their Jamestown furniture.
A recent addition to the collection adds to our information about the products - especially products produced from the 1930s to the 1970s. Many photographs and negatives that were made to produce catalogs and publicity pictures are now part of the collection. The photograph featured with this article is from that collection. It is a desk made by Maddox as part of its colonial reproduction line. According to the information printed at the bottom, this desk is solid cherry top and front, 48-inches-by-24-inches and has two file drawers. It was also available in maple or mahogany and could have a three-piece leather top. Unfortunately, this print and negative had no date so we don't know the time period it appeared.
Whether you have Jamestown-made furniture or furniture from elsewhere that you want to continue to enjoy, you can attend the Fenton Institute on Saturday, Jan. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon. This class will give advice on the proper usage, display and storage of your heritage furniture so it will last for many more years and generations. Understanding the construction and the function of the piece can help maintain furniture for years. The cost is $15 for non-members, $10 for members, or it can be the free elective for certain level memberships. Call the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 for more information or to make reservations.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.