Wednesday Wicker Wisdom-Antique Wicker Eras


When I first started repairing antique wicker furniture back in the mid-1970s, I would get in a lot of Victorian era wicker pieces that quickly became my favorite pieces to restore. My favoritism was due to the excellent craftsmanship of the period and the use of first growth quality cane and reed materials.

Peters repairing Victorian wicker highchair

But there are several other styles made in various eras that you might be interested in hearing about and seeing some pictures of, too.

Although wicker pieces have been made since the beginning of recorded history, I will just be talking about the American wicker furniture industry from the 1840s-1940s here in this blog post.

I just looked on my computer for pictures of all these eras and I must have taken some pictures off and put on CDs, so I don’t have pictures to go with all these eras right now, sorry. But here goes with the descriptions and pictures I can supply.

Early Wicker 1840s-1860s — Was light, airy, typically made from rattan and willow and was simplistic in design. Except for the elaborate distinctive esparto braided design (made from very fine, thin willow osiers), made by the Colt Willow-Ware Manufactory.

Victorian Wicker 1870s-1890s — Made with rattan and reed (the inner pith of rattan), characteristically heavily embellished with scrolls, curlicues, beading, chain loops, Spider Web and Star of David cane backs, close woven “set-in” machine cane webbing for seats.

Victorian Parlor Set

Enormously popular during this time was the wicker baby carriage or “perambulator.” Called the “Golden Age of Wicker” during the later part of the century.

Turn of the Century or Progressive Age 1900s-1915s — This era welcomed in a decidedly different style with the ever popular reed, but also with the reintroduction of willow. Styles changed to the simple, sleek look of the reformist, Progressive era called the Mission, Craftsman and Bar Harbor styles.

Bar Harbor Reed Wicker

With open weave lattice-look devoid of embellishment, this wicker was popular furniture for summer cottages and Adirondack lodges and seaside resorts. And in 1904, the invention of the paper fibre was introduced and later, wicker furniture frequently sported upholstery fabrics.

Machine Age or Modern Age 1915s-1930s — In 1917 the mechanized Lloyd Loom was invented, producing woven paper fibre “sheets” or “fabric” and took the industry by storm. Not only did this machine lessen the cost of the hand-woven wicker for the customer, but made massive amounts of easily affordable wicker available to the public.

Lloyd Loom wicker baby cart
1920s Lloyd Loom wicker baby cart

Both the machine-made Lloyd Loom wicker and the handwoven paper wicker were now painted and during the 1920s often featured diamond patterns in the backs and sides called the “Art Deco” style. Set-in upholstered cushions were the rage in couches, rockers, and chairs, then.

1930s paper wicker rocker
1930s Paper Fibre Wicker Rocker

Then toward the late 1930s, yet another new style wicker was introduced called the Modernist “stick wicker.” This type of wicker furniture was made from sticks or strands of reed and/or willow rods.

1930s stick wicker
1930s Stick Wicker

At the very end of the 1930s and into the early 1940s, wicker furniture took a drastic turn with the advent of tubular steel “modern” furniture. Shortly thereafter it totally lost favor with the buying public.

Luckily, wicker furniture seems to makes a resurgence in popularity about every 25 years, though. And now there are some excellent reproductions being made, as well as good quality all-weather pieces for you to use outdoors on your decks, patios and at poolside.

Please take care of your antique and collectible wicker furniture and never leave it outdoors, because as I always say, “Once those fine old wicker pieces are gone they are gone forever. You can’t “make” new antique wicker.”

Check the Articles tab for helpful hints and tips on caring for your wicker, painting wicker and other interesting details on cane and wicker furniture.

Hope this helped! Do you have antique or collectible wicker furniture too? Please let me know in the comments below if you own wicker furniture and what wicker era yours is from.

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