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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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White Furniture Company

by Sheila Bumgarner, 2006White Furniture Company. Image courtesy of Flickr user Lance McCord.

The White Furniture Company was organized in Mebane in 1881 by brothers William E. and David A. White, sons of Mebane cofounder Stephen A. White. The factory was incorporated as the White-Rickel Furniture Company on 9 May 1896. There were three principal incorporators, including A. J. Rickel from Manchester, Ohio, who moved to the area looking to invest in the furniture industry. By 1899 he had sold his interest in the Mebane plant, and thereafter the firm was known as the White Furniture Company.

In addition to manufacturing window materials, the White brothers contracted for building jobs. The mass production of building materials eventually led to the standardization of architectural forms throughout the state. The White Furniture Company's success in this lucrative industry led to the production of fine furniture in 1896. Specializing in furnishings for bedrooms and dining rooms, the company continued to prosper. Always on the cutting edge of technology, White Furniture became one of the first plants in the South to utilize electrically powered machinery. In 1905 the company became the first southern furniture manufacturer to be awarded a contract with the U.S. government, supplying furniture to military personnel working on the Panama Canal. Eventually the company supplied solid mahogany furniture for the quarters of army officers throughout the United States and the Far East. In 1912 White Furniture provided the furnishings for Asheville's famed Grove Park Inn, many of which are still in use.

During the Jamestown Exposition of 1907, White Furniture received an award as the top manufacturer of furniture in the country and a blue ribbon for best furniture display. Eventually the company became known for its elegant mahogany dining room furnishings. The pieces produced by White Furniture featured classical designs with attention given to details, such as the selection of fine, kiln-dried woods. Carefully crafted inlays became the company's trademark.

In 1940 White Furniture expanded its business and opened a factory in Hillsborough. During World War II, the company again received government contracts. In 1982, the factory building itself was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1985 the Hickory White Furniture Company, which had no connection to the Mebane firm, purchased White Furniture, ending family ownership after 104 years. Subsequently, in 1993, Hickory White downsized its operation, closing the Mebane plant and consolidating all of its activities in Hickory.

Reference:

Bill Bamberger and Cathy N. Davidson, Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (1998).

Additional Resources:

City of Mebane: http://www.cityofmebane.com/visitors/about_mebane/history 

The White Furniture Company of Mebane: The Final Months. http://muse.jhu.edu/login

Cherry, Robert Gregg. "Industrial Safety: Address Delivered on the Occasion of Presenting Certificates of Achievement in the Field of Industrial Safety to the Orange Furniture Craftsmen, Hilllsboro, December 17, 1946" Public addresses and papers of Robert Gregg Cherry: Governor of North Carolina, 1945-1949. Raleigh [N.C.]: Council of State, State of North Carolina,1951. 578. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/ref/collection/p249901coll22/id/421801 (accessed March 8, 2013).

Image Credit:

White Furniture Company. Image courtesy of Flickr user Lance McCord. Available from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccord/7524540/ (accessed June 26, 2012).

Origin - location: 

Comments

Comment: 

I'm trying to find a link between White Furniture and the same style furniture that was built in 1909 at the private club in Hendersonville NC. (Kanuga- that is now an Episcopal Conference center.) George Stevens from Charlotte ( built Myers Park development) opened the club and in that same time frame John Frank Stevens ordered furniture for the Panama Canal project, and then in 1912 White provided furniture for Grove Park Inn. Allegedly there was a Mr. Haithcock that ran the furniture factory at Kanuga (about 1907-1912) and also worked at White furniture ( I'm not sure which came first.). thanks for any help to get more information and connection

Comment: 

I have a White Furniture Co mahogony anniversary chest in perfect condition with a descriptive manual and Bill of Sale...Have you any idea what it may be worth ??

Comment: 

Hi Joseph

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and taking a minute to post your question.

Unfortunately, NCpedia is an online encyclopedia and we don't have any information to help with appraisal or furniture identification questions.  You may want to consider contacting an antique dealer.

Carla Morris, Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

My mother gave me her bedroom set before she passed. The label on the back says Whites Furniture Company, Mebane,NC. It has No. 1621 I can't read much more. She bought it at the Connecticut Appliance Store. The set has the head board, foot board, tall dresser and long dresser with a mirror. It was damaged during Hurricane Michael and I need to put a value on it for the insurance. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you

Comment: 

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and sharing your comment.

Unfortunately, NCpedia is unable to help with this question.  The NCpedia is an online encyclopedia of North Carolina information.  

That is probably a reasonable assumption that the number is the model number, but you may want to try searching the internet or contacting a furniture or antique dealer.  

Good luck!

Best, 

Kelly Eubank, Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

Hi! I just picked up a beautiful White Furniture "Promethean Collection" china top and buffet. I'm considering refinishing it, but I'm trying to figure out if it is solid wood, or veneer, or a combination of both. Is there any information you can provide, or can you point me in the right direction?
Thanks!

Comment: 

I have a White Furniture Co. bedroom chest of drawers and mirror chest numbers 725-51, 725-41, 725-31. Some of the dresser drawer pulls are broken. Do you know where I can get replacements? Thank you, Robert Greenleaf

Comment: 

Is it possible to determine the manufacture date of my furniture with the lot number? My furniture has lot number 166

Comment: 

Hi, Susan.

Thank you for your question. If the manufacturing records of the furniture company (presumably White?) still exist, and a clear connection can be made to your piece of furniture, this would theoretically be possible. According to the article, it consolidated all of its activities in Hickory. Perhaps they would have some knowledge about White's manufacturing records. The customer service number is:

800-462-6278

Thank you.

Mike Millner, NC Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

I saw a picture of an old postcard for the Continental Chair Company and it sure looks like the White Furniture complex. We're these two companies related?

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