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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 https://www.flickr.com/photos/mccord/7524540/ (accessed June 26, 2012).

Origin - location: 

Comments

Comment: 

I bought a bedroom set in 1975 and love it! However the handle fell off of one of the drawers. Was wondering if I could get a replacement handle? I took a picture of furniture so u could see what it looks like. Thanks

Comment: 

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

You may want to talk to home "do-it-yourself" stores in your area, such as Lowes, home depot, etc. and see if they can help you find replacement.

Good luck!

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

I have a 3-drawer bedroom dresser made by the White Furniture Company, Mebane N.C. that was originally made for and shipped to Ft Lincoln, North Dakota. I got the dresser in 2002 in Montana. Always loved it, just never knew there was so much history in it until recently when I found the original furniture tag stuck on the bottom of the dresser and started looking into it.

Comment: 

Howdy,
I found a 10 piece dining room what appears to be walnut white furniture combination set. I’m wondering if you could help me evaluate I’ll give me more information or points towards resources that would do I said.
God bless,
Darian adams,

Comment: 

We have a dining room set going back beyond 1950 but I don’t know how far. It has a crest sticker in the drawer. Were you able to gather any information that might help me put a value on it?
Thanks

Comment: 

Hello Dewey, Darian, and Leonard. 

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 and htt...

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

I bought a bedroom set from White Furniture Co. back in 1986. It's a beautiful mahogany wood with ornate oriental trimming. Bedroom set was stamped 335-15 Lot no. 304, Nov. 13, 1986 (I had to wait 3 months for the suite to be made) I love, love, love this set. Well with my last move the movers dropped the platform bed leg along with totally braking off the ornate trimming on the nightstand. What suggestions do you have to fix these issues, and what type of compensation should I expect from the moving company?

Comment: 

I just purchased a canopy bed from White Furniture company. There are some accents missing from the top post. I would like to find a picture of the bed if you have it so I can construct the missing pieces. Thank You, Blake

Comment: 

I'm trying to find a link between White Furniture and the same style furniture that was built in 1909 at the private club in Hendersonville NC. (Kanuga- that is now an Episcopal Conference center.) George Stevens from Charlotte ( built Myers Park development) opened the club and in that same time frame John Frank Stevens ordered furniture for the Panama Canal project, and then in 1912 White provided furniture for Grove Park Inn. Allegedly there was a Mr. Haithcock that ran the furniture factory at Kanuga (about 1907-1912) and also worked at White furniture ( I'm not sure which came first.). thanks for any help to get more information and connection

Comment: 

I have a White Furniture Co mahogony anniversary chest in perfect condition with a descriptive manual and Bill of Sale...Have you any idea what it may be worth ??

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