Q: Almost 50 years ago, I bought a federal-style secretary-desk from a Salvation Army store in Milwaukee. On the back there’s a note that says: “From Rockford Chair and Furniture Co., furniture manufacturer, Rockford, Ill.” Each of the two glass doors on the top has 13 sections, which I have been told represents the original 13 states. Is that true? And can you tell me something about the manufacturer?
A: It is true that early American cabinetmakers often designed glass doors with 13 sections in honor of the 13 original states. So companies that copied early federal styles copied early door styles, too. Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. was founded in about 1882 by Pehr A. Peterson (c.1846-1927). He had opened the Union Furniture Co. in the same city in 1875-76. The Rockford Chair & Furniture Co. continued to make furniture in revival styles until 1950.