If you follow along with us on social media, you know we like a good furniture history deep dive! Jeff likes to learn about the processes of the manufacturers of the mid century modern furniture that we sell and I like to know about the people, the places and where the companies are now.
We are trying something new and moving our Instagram "Chats with Jeff" video series to YouTube and adding this "Furniture History Deep Dive" series to our blog. Both are fun ways for us to document our most exciting finds and to keep track of the information we learn along the way, all while sharing it with you!
So let's get into our first deep dive post:
Kroehler Manufacturing Co. - "World's Largest Furniture Maker"
Today, we listed a Kroehler Galaxy sofa in the shop. The label makes the boast "Kroehler world's largest furniture maker". This claim appears on most of the Kroehler labels that I have seen. Was Kroehler really the world's largest furniture maker, and if so during what time period? Where is Kroehler now?
As with all great deep dives for information, my search started with Google. I found sites that looked like they were created in the 90s, as I often do when I try to research furniture history, but also some resources from newspapers and encyclopedias.
Kroehler Manufacturing Co. was founded by Peter E. Kroehler in Naperville, IL. Peter E. Kroehler was an important figure in Naperville history, as his company was the largest employer in the town. After working his way up to becoming a partner in Naperville Lounge Co., he later purchased it in 1902. Naperville Lounge Co. made wooden lounge chairs and upholstered furniture. Eventually, in 1915, the company merged to combine four factories, which became "Kroehler Manufacturing Company".
Peter Kroehler - Photo Credit American Furniture History Hall of Fame
By the 1940s, through expansion and acquisition of other companies, the company had over $20 million in annual sales and was the second largest furniture maker in the U.S. The hey-day of the company seemed to be in the 60s (which is when our sofa was made) when annual revenues reached $200 million and the company had 14 factories which employed thousands of workers in the U.S. and Canada. This is the period of time when it was the world's largest furniture maker.
According to an article about the company in the Daily Star, during the company's peak, "Kroehler was delivering 128 truckloads of furniture a day to stores primarily in the Midwestern and Northeastern states". This explains why Kroehler furniture can be found in homes in the Midwest, to this day.
Decline to Present Day
Apparently, the company operated at a loss due to smaller profit margins in the 1970s and gradually began to suffer. The Kroehler family sold the business and rights to the Kroehler name in 1981. The company was mostly defunct by 2001.
Of particular interest to me in this story is all of the people that were employed by the factories for this company. Imagine how important Kroehler was to Naperville, IL - a western suburb of Chicago, and the thousands of people employed throughout the country and even in Canada! I read an excerpt of the 1951 company newsletter and it contained a listing of their Long Service Awards with employees that had worked for the company up to 40 years at that time!
If you happen to read this post and know of someone who worked for the company or have further information to share, we would love to hear about it in the comments section!