Furniture History Collection

Furniture History Collection

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Grand Rapids as Furniture City

From the 1870s through the 1930s, Grand Rapids was the center of the furniture industry. Today, many of the largest office furniture companies are still in the West Michigan area.

The Grand Rapids History Center holds a wealth of resources for researching furniture companies, the furniture industry, and design and decorative arts generally.

Furniture Design Collection

The Grand Rapids Public Library holds one of the world’s finest collections of books devoted to furniture history and design.

The core of the Furniture Design Collection was acquired in 1904 from the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World’s Fair at St. Louis when the Library purchased every furniture title available from the French Book Trade Exhibit. Subsequently, both the Library and the Grand Rapids Furniture Designers Association have added hundreds of important titles from around the world.

The Furniture Design Collection also includes significant holdings on the decorative arts, with a focus on topics relating to interior design, patterns and ornamentation.

Search the collection here., opens a new window

Furniture Periodicals & Magazines

Digitized Furniture Periodicals, opens a new window
Includes the The Michigan Artisan (1906 - 1909), The Weekly Artisan (1909 - 1910), and Fine Furniture (1936 - 1937).

Index for Furniture and Business Periodicals (1883-1949), opens a new window
Indexes the Michigan Tradesman, Furniture Manufacturer/Artisan, Grand Rapids Furniture Record, and Michigan Artisan

Michigan Tradesman (1883-1906 and 1920-1935), opens a new window
Michigan State University provides access to this title online.

Furniture magazines & periodicals, opens a new window
Advertising, design, and industry magazines relating to the furniture industry, located at the Grand Rapids History Center

Furniture Resources in the Archives

See our Archival Resources page, opens a new window for a complete listing of our collections or visit our search interface., opens a new window

Local Resources

The Grand Rapids Public Museum, opens a new window also holds a significant collection of photographs, catalogs, design drawings, industry publications, and other ephemera documenting the furniture industry in Grand Rapids.

The Furniture City History, opens a new window website, maintained by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission, is a good resource for additional information about the history and heritage of the furniture industry in Grand Rapids.

Web Resources

Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library
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Furniture specialty library in North Carolina

Herman Miller Consortium Collection
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Images related to furniture design at Herman Miller

Winterthur Library
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Digital collections from a museum of American decorative arts

FAQs

  • The Grand Rapids History Center collects, preserves, and shares the history of our community, through photographs, diaries, posters, maps and other records. You can research your house, your family, a business, or your neighborhood. Staff are ready to assist you with your research needs, whether it be finding material on our shelves, tips on where to start, or with navigating our archival collections. We’re here to help you explore at your own pace. You may drop in at any time, or you can contact us ahead of time with questions. If you’re traveling from out of town, we recommend that you check in with us before your visit (but it isn’t required). The Grand Rapids History Center is located on level four of the Main Library, and is open the same hours.  Please note that while covered beverages are allowed on other floors of the library, no food or beverages (including water) are permitted on level four.
  • Contact us with details of your research request. We’re happy to answer quick questions and provide suggestions for further research. Due to the time and staff resources involved in researching answers to local history, genealogy, and furniture questions, some fees apply to certain types of requests. We encourage researchers to come to our library to be assisted for free.

    Family history queries can also be submitted to the Western Michigan Genealogical Society research committee.

  • We love when people use and share images from our archives. Our digital collections were designed with sharing in mind and if you find content that you would like to download and share, you are welcome to do so. If you do, we ask that you please let people know that it came from the Grand Rapids Public Library, so others may find it as well.

    There are some fees that apply to scanning and using images. If the content is not available through our digital collections, there is a $5 processing fee per image. If you would like to include an image in a published book or use it for commercial purposes (such as selling a t-shirt or creating artwork for a restaurant or office), there is a use fee of $15 per image. For additional information and to order images, please visit our order form.

    There are also exceptions for content where the copyright is held by someone else. In those instances, you need to seek permission from the copyright holder. In our digital collections we use RightsStatements.org categories to share, to the best of our knowledge, if content is in the public domain or under copyright. 

  • You can search our finding aids here. When you arrive, you will fill out a request card for each folder or box. The request card asks for your name and contact information, and the location of the material you would like to view (usually a collection number, box number and folder number). You may have one box or five folders at your table at a time.  All materials are stored on-site. If you would like any guidance in searching or in preparing your requests, please contact us.  

  • We are always looking for items to tell the story of our community, from the recent past to the 1800s. If you have unique books, papers, letters, scrapbooks or photographs you think would contribute to this cause, please contact us.

    If you are interested in making a monetary donation, please contact the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation.

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