Monday, January 28, 2013

Furniture History Sleuthing

Since I've worked as a reporter before, I'm a bit of a snoop. I'm also a history nut, so being able to investigate history means I'm in my full geek glory.

Last week I showed off my new find, the Colonial Revival style kitchen table and chairs I discovered at a consignment shop.


But I also found a manufacturing stamp underneath the table which read "11/67. Cochrane's Bay Colony. No. 936.

Here's what it looks like:



Forgive the crappy photo/flash but remember, I was under a table, for pete's sake:

What I thought this told me was that in November of 1967 (I was a newborn!) a furniture company named Cochrane's made a style of furniture called Bay Colony and the product number was 936.

I have to tell you, I just frickin' love Google when it comes to these things. Really.

I found a registered trademark (expired) filed in 1963 for the furniture brand "Bay Colony," along with this logo:

Now, I don't have this logo on any of my kitchen furniture pieces, but perhaps they only used it in advertising and displays. At any rate, the dates lined up with what I knew about the age and style of the piece. "Bay Colony" is a great name for a furniture line with American Colonial styling. 

The absolute best part of this furniture history sleuthing is without too much trouble at all, I found a great, red-white-and-blue tale of American manufacturing, and now I own a little piece of it. 


Cochrane's was a furniture company located in Lincolnton, North Carolina, and began way back in the 1850's, when the Cochrane family's great-great-great-somethin' grandfather was making church pews. In 1905 they began making furnishings for homes, and by the 1930s they were selling primarily dining room furniture made out of oak, pine, and maple. The family grew the company successfully through the Depression, World War II, and the 1950s and 1960s (when my set was built). 

In the 1990s, the company was sold to the Chromecraft Revington company and production was moved to China. You can still see the Cochrane name on furniture being built today, but it is made overseas. 

However, the Cochrane family has recently reopened a new family-owned furniture business in Lincolnton, and is now operating under the name of Lincolnton Furniture Company, employing a lot of their former workers, and concentrating once again on high quality solid wood dining room furniture: 

Lincolnton Furniture's "Declaration" Maple Dining Set
Not only am I personally happy to read about this, so are a lot of other people. Lincolnton Furniture and the Cochrane family are getting lots of good press, including from no less a place than the White House, about reversing the trend of outsourcing American manufacturing jobs to insourcing them instead. You can read a bit about the Cochrane family's business history here, and I've linked to the best news story I've found on the internet, an Associated Press feature posted by the Joliet, Illinois Herald-News on April 7, 2012. 


The only word I can think of to describe this information is "enriching." I loved this table and chair set when I purchased it, without really knowing a thing about it other than the fact it was solid (the teenage son had to put his back into getting the table in the house-- it's HEAVY) and exactly what I was looking for. Now that I know it represented one family's livelihood, I feel even better about owning it. 

I felt the same way about another history investigation for my birch kitchen cupboards, which were manufactured by another American company, Haas Cabinet, in Sellersburg, Indiana. They are still in business, and you can read about that discovery in my blog post here. 


It gives me a deep sense of place and satisfaction to know I've got manufactured items with a history and a story in the room where my family lives, eats, and spends time. 

15 comments:

  1. I love this post. THIS is why I love bringing old things into our home. We did a little sleuthing (yes, what DID we do before Google?) on the large textile art we recently bought. Discovered that it comes from a similar small, family-owned business in Finland. We're sure ours is a pretty rare piece, because they don't make a whole lot of anything. Got a little excited when we saw one of their works going for $300 on Etsy (or was it e-Bay?), considering that we paid $20 at Goodwill--but then I realized it really didn't matter because I'll never want to sell it.

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    1. I did notice the caption in your photo of that textile art, and yes, it makes it more special to know about its creators. I suppose collectors and appraisers would use the word "provenance" but it seems too stuffy for what I think is the more essential significance we take from it. Real people made your art and my table, rather than automated assembly lines. That is always going to be the right kind of cool!

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  2. Hi!

    I just came upon your post while doing a search for Cochrane bay colony. I could hardly find anything so I was excited to find your post. So I also found a dinette set at an estate sale. The only info I could get off it was: Cochrane Bay Colony No. 986718. I was just curious if you might be able to tell me the date this one was made or maybe where I could look to find out?

    Heres a link to see what it looks like: www.pattersonestatesales.com/sales.html hope this works, its the first link on google then its the second sale at the bottom of the page under Madison sale. If you scroll the pictures, its the little dinette set with 4 chairs. Thanks for any info...

    Susie

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    1. Hi, Susie! What a cute set! (Also, it looks as though there was other great stuff at that estate sale too).

      I can't claim to be an expert, I'm only going on what little I managed to find on the internet myself, which was just a few mentions in discussion threads. My own table was stamped underneath with the date first, and then the name, then the item number, as shown in the photo. One thing I have noticed about references I did manage to find is the Cochrane's Bay Colony line all seemed to have 900-series numbers to them, and both mine and yours does. I wonder if they omitted the date of manufacture on your piece, or somehow rolled it into the longer number? Also a good place to look: Sometime tables will have information stamped on the upper side of a leg where it is bolted to the table top. You'd need to remove the leg to see.

      You might also try contacting the furniture company at the website link in the post. They are a smaller company and might be able to access their old wholesale catalogs for more information. I've tried this a couple of times with other items I own where the company still existed, and have had a response at least half the time.

      I don't know if any of this helps; there's not a lot out there about colonial revival style furniture, and it's a shame that there's no place to find out more.

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    2. I am so happy that I stumbled across this.. I recently purchased a maple drop leaf harvest table, with similar stamping as well.. my table says 12/66. Cochrane's Bay Colony No. 972. I have googled and googled, and I saw some info that mentioned the Cochrane family and furniture making, but seeing your stamp was pretty cool!! So, thanks for putting this info out there!!

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  3. Hi,
    I have a round (extendable) table like yours Laura, I always noticed that it is heavy and stardust, I'd say nicely built. When I discovered the stamp underneath the table top, I started wondering if was possible to be valuable. I've heard a bunch of stories about people who find treasures in garage sales and they later find out that's very valuable. I purchased this table and chairs a couple of years ago, and I was thinking about selling it to get something smaller because my kids started leaving the nest. Is it possible that I might be one of those stories I've heard about? I mean is it pricey? Just curiosity, of course, now I don't want to get rid of it. Lol
    Any information would be highly appreciated.
    Thanks.

    Evelyn

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    1. Evelyn-- I honestly couldn't say about your table because I'm not an expert, but you could always take it to a furniture consignment shop and they could tell you what you'd be likely to be able to sell it for. That's always going to depend on quality, condition, and how interested people are in that style. My own table set is good quality, but one of the reasons that it found its way into my home besides the fact that I really loved it, is that it was quite affordable compared to the same quality new furniture. Is it valuable? In the eye of this beholder, yes! But whether that translates into money is an altogether different topic, and one I can't really advise you on very well. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

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  4. Loved this, and thank you for all your research. I have a trestle table with a captain's chair and three side chairs that was purchased in the early 70's. While putting some slides on the chairs I saw it is imprinted with Cochrane Colony Bay. It is one of the first items purchased after I was married. I like it so much that when I was living is a small apartment I had it in storage. I now have a house again and an very much enjoying it in my dining area.

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    1. I'm glad you're enjoying yours and were able to keep it; We've grown to love this table set, and I'm even happier for all the memories that are growing around mine.

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  5. Shopping for this sort of kitchen table and did a bit of sleuthing of my own. Unfortunately, the company appears to have closed down in 2013 after it had a brush with political fame.

    http://dailycaller.com/2013/01/04/nc-furniture-plant-praised-by-obama-closes/

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    1. TM, it's a shame to hear that. It seems they had their hearts in the right place, but the business world can be a cold place sometimes. :(

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  6. I own cochrane furniture. A dining table with 2 leaves that opens up to 96" and 6 chairs and 2 hutches, one is a corner hutch the other a hutch with lit top. This furniture is 33 years old and still going strong. It's made of light oak and I bought it when I got married in 1983. I really wish I could buy another set as good as this is, I might try the Lincolnton company. Thanks for all the info!

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  7. While cleaning a dining room set that was passed down to me, I found a similar stamp on the bottom. 663 Cochrane Salem chair No. 3-611. The furniture is so solid and in such good condition I could not resist trying to track down its manufacturer. Thanks to Google I found this information on my first search. We are all fortunate to have Cochrane furniture (and Google).

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  8. I have an entire dining room set from Cochrane's era 1965. The drop side dining table 6 chairs and 2 piece hutch. It was my mothers and bought new for her from my father. It is from the driftwood collection #208. It is in excellent shape very sturdy. I treasure it.

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  9. I also got a set of bay colony (number 986) and found your post from the brand name! Mine was from the year 1970 :)

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