New England Begins 1620-1730 Colonial Expressions in the Georgian Era 1730-1790 Neoclassicism in the New Nation 1790-1840 Industry, Innovation, and Tradition 1835-1950 Reaction and Reform 1870-1945 The Factory and the Studio 1920-2013

As the twentieth century progressed, the landscape of furniture making in Massachusetts became more diverse. more

In the World

  • 1929Beginning of the Great Depression
  • 1941Bombing of Pearl Harbor
  • 1972Watergate scandalizes the nation

In Massachusetts

  • 1927Execution of Sacco and Vanzetti
  • 1974School desegregation in Boston
  • 2004Red Sox win the World Series (after waiting 86 years)

The Factory and the Studio

Mid-Century Modern, 1920-1960

Much furniture made in Massachusetts in the twentieth century was traditional in nature, reflecting the area’s longstanding and widespread enthusiasm for historicism. However, a few designers and manufacturers in the state explored various forms of international modernism that were stylish beginning in the 1920s and 1930s.

For example, Paul R. Goldman designed innovative plywood furniture for the Plymold Corporation of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in the 1940s that embraced the sleek lines and modernist aesthetic of well-known designers such as Charles and Ray Eames of California.  The Heywood-Wakefield Co. created its own interpretations of the French art deco style starting in the 1930s.

Design Research, a retail store founded in 1953 by Ben Thompson, played a significant role in introducing modern Scandinavian furniture design to the public.  Originally located on Brattle Street in Cambridge, Design Research expanded to several locations in the state and elsewhere, but eventually closed in 1969.

Selected Bibliography

  • Baker, Donna S., ed.  Heywood-Wakefield Blond Furniture:  Depression to ‘50s.  Atglen, PA:  Schiffer Publishing, 2005.
  • Ostergard, Derek E. Bent Wood and Metal Furniture, 1850-1946.  Seattle:  University of Washington Press, 1986,
  • Swedberg, Robert W., and Harriett Swedberg.  Furniture of the Depression Era:  Furniture and Accessories of the 1920’s, 1930’s, and 1940’s.  Paducah, KY:  Collector Books, 1987.
  • Thompson, Jane, and Alexandra Lange.  Design Research:  The Store That Brought Modern Living to American Homes.  San Francisco:  Chronicle Books, 2010.


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