As we celebrate this Fourth of July, we thought it would be fun to remind you that some iconic brand names form part our country’s history. Companies like Tiffany & Co., Knoll, and Herman Miller have been successful for decades. What qualities have kept these businesses afloat? It appears that salesmanship, quality, innovation, design, and branding are the strong points of these brands, allowing them a steady base of customers and collectors.
Tiffany & Co., for example, has been around since 1853. Terry Kovel attributes its permanence to consistently high-quality jewelry and creative designers. Plus Tiffany has branded its products in a very recognizable way—“Who doesn’t want a little blue box?” asks Terry.
Furniture makers Knoll, Herman Miller, and Heywood-Wakefield made names for themselves through innovative design. Inspiration struck Herman Miller when designer Charles Eames created his iconic bentwood chair out of a new type of plywood made for a World War II splint. Similarly, Heywood-Wakefield can attribute its success to the creation of a patio staple, the wicker chair, back in the 1850s. That’s when Cyrus Wakefield figured out how to make chair seats using scrap rattan wrapping from ships’ cargo. Knoll found its niche in modern design, which has has grown in popularity among collectors.
Like Knoll, Lightolier is another company that has remained current by being at the forefront of its industry. It has gone from creating fashionable--and new-fangled--electric light fixtures in 1904 to producing LED lights for today’s energy-conscious market. Companies have also endured by being practical. Libbey Glass Co. has provided affordable glassware since 1818, taking the lower price – higher volume route. International Silver has kept its business alive since 1898, when the conglomerate was born from the union of many struggling silver companies. The company continues producing its old designs, but also makes modern pieces.
Decade after decade, these brands have endured with tenacity, smarts, and a bit of luck. If you want to tell us about a favorite great American brand we haven’t mentioned, please add to our list by leaving a comment below.
Herman Miller Chair
Photo: SUSANIN'S Auctions
Photo: Rago Arts and Auction Center
Tiffany & Co. Pendant
Photo: Ivey-Selkirk Auctioneers