Furniture Making In Western Pennsylvania

While furniture made in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and New York has been well documented, furniture made in cities like Pittsburgh remains to be fully discovered.

When the city and environs began to be settled in the late eighteenth century it was difficult to transport furniture from East-Coast cities. It would seem much of what was used in Pittsburgh, Washington and Greensburg at that time might have been made here.

A review of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 1800 onward shows advertisements for cabinetmakers starting around 1811. By 1840 there were at least seven cabinetmakers and a number of companies including the Allegheny Chair Company on Ohio Street at the Diamond. By 1835, the book Pittsburgh’s Commercial Development shows furniture being both imported and exported from Pittsburgh. Before 1811 there are quite a few advertisements from merchants in Philadelphia and Baltimore advertising wares.

There are documented pieces from Western Pennsylvania before 1800, but the extent of refined furniture manufacturing in Pittsburgh at that time remains largely unknown (at least to this author).

The early pieces that are known range from simple to sophisticated, from plain walnut to fine inlay featuring vines and leaves.

What were the influences? Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York? How much of the style is home-grown? How can Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania furniture be identified? Who were the cabinetmakers before 1800? What did the products made by the companies advertising after 1811 look like? These are questions I’d like to attempt to answer.

If you have any insight, please contact me.

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