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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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White Furniture Company

by Sheila Bumgarner, 2006White Furniture Company. Image courtesy of Flickr user Lance McCord.

The White Furniture Company was organized in Mebane in 1881 by brothers William E. and David A. White, sons of Mebane cofounder Stephen A. White. The factory was incorporated as the White-Rickel Furniture Company on 9 May 1896. There were three principal incorporators, including A. J. Rickel from Manchester, Ohio, who moved to the area looking to invest in the furniture industry. By 1899 he had sold his interest in the Mebane plant, and thereafter the firm was known as the White Furniture Company.

In addition to manufacturing window materials, the White brothers contracted for building jobs. The mass production of building materials eventually led to the standardization of architectural forms throughout the state. The White Furniture Company's success in this lucrative industry led to the production of fine furniture in 1896. Specializing in furnishings for bedrooms and dining rooms, the company continued to prosper. Always on the cutting edge of technology, White Furniture became one of the first plants in the South to utilize electrically powered machinery. In 1905 the company became the first southern furniture manufacturer to be awarded a contract with the U.S. government, supplying furniture to military personnel working on the Panama Canal. Eventually the company supplied solid mahogany furniture for the quarters of army officers throughout the United States and the Far East. In 1912 White Furniture provided the furnishings for Asheville's famed Grove Park Inn, many of which are still in use.

During the Jamestown Exposition of 1907, White Furniture received an award as the top manufacturer of furniture in the country and a blue ribbon for best furniture display. Eventually the company became known for its elegant mahogany dining room furnishings. The pieces produced by White Furniture featured classical designs with attention given to details, such as the selection of fine, kiln-dried woods. Carefully crafted inlays became the company's trademark.

In 1940 White Furniture expanded its business and opened a factory in Hillsborough. During World War II, the company again received government contracts. In 1982, the factory building itself was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1985 the Hickory White Furniture Company, which had no connection to the Mebane firm, purchased White Furniture, ending family ownership after 104 years. Subsequently, in 1993, Hickory White downsized its operation, closing the Mebane plant and consolidating all of its activities in Hickory.

Reference:

Bill Bamberger and Cathy N. Davidson, Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (1998).

Additional Resources:

City of Mebane: http://www.cityofmebane.com/visitors/about_mebane/history 

The White Furniture Company of Mebane: The Final Months. http://muse.jhu.edu/login

Cherry, Robert Gregg. "Industrial Safety: Address Delivered on the Occasion of Presenting Certificates of Achievement in the Field of Industrial Safety to the Orange Furniture Craftsmen, Hilllsboro, December 17, 1946" Public addresses and papers of Robert Gregg Cherry: Governor of North Carolina, 1945-1949. Raleigh [N.C.]: Council of State, State of North Carolina,1951. 578. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/421801 (accessed March 8, 2013).

Image Credit:

White Furniture Company. Image courtesy of Flickr user Lance McCord. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccord/7524540/ (accessed June 26, 2012).

Origin - location: 

Comments

Comment: 

I have a dining room table and chairs from white manufacturing. How can I find the value?
Thank you.

Comment: 

Dear Ms. Shrum,

You can find price guides for antiques online. Some are free and some require a subscription. Here are a couple of sites to get you started:

http://antiques.lovetoknow.com/Free_Online_Antique_Price_Guide

https://www.thespruce.com/find-values-for-antiques-and-collectibles-149350

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library

 

Comment: 

hello,
does NCpedia happen to have access to records of the white furniture company or knowledge of any outside designers who designed furniture lines for white? just curious to know if all of the furniture produced was designed by a single person or committee in-house, or if well known designers were brought in at some point. thanks!

Comment: 

Hi Kelly,

Unfortunately, NCpedia doesn't have any additional information, but that is a great question.

I have two thoughts for researching more on the company and its designs:

First, here is a list of search results for the subject heading for the White Furniture Company on WorldCat: https://www.worldcat.org/search?q=su%3Awhite+furniture+company&qt=advanc... WorldCat searches the holdings of libraries all over the world, so you can see if any libraries near you may have these resources (or you may be able to request them from your library via interlibrary loan).

Second, (and some of these may be duplicated in the WorldCat search), there are archival materials related to the company at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here are results from the library's catalog: http://search.lib.unc.edu/search?N=0&Ntk=Author&Ntt=%22White+Furniture+C... You may wish to contact or visit the library to view materials that may be of interest.  I see that they have a collection of the company's catalogs among the collections.

I hope this helps!

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

I have. White night stand, dark wood, the White logo us inside the drawer. It is oval shape and has something that looks like a crest inside the logo. Is this from the White Brothers furniture brand? It has the number 1620ML365. Does this number indicate the model number? Thanks for any help you can provide. I live in WA state.

Comment: 

Hi Jackie,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and sharing your comment.

Unfortunately, NCpedia is unable to help with this question.  The NCpedia is an online encyclopedia of North Carolina information.  

That is probably a reasonable assumption that the number is the model number, but you may want to try searching the internet or contacting a furniture or antique dealer.  

Good luck!

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

I have a complete bedroom set with inscription of white in drawer how can I find out how old it is and it's value.
Thank u

Comment: 

Dear Laraine,

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and taking a minute to post your question.

Unfortunately, NCpedia is an online encyclopedia and we don't have any information to help with appraisal or furniture identification questions.  You may want to consider contacting an antique dealer.

Good luck!

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library

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