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Antique Rockford Union Furniture Company Late Victorian Secretary & Bookcase, circa 1900s. Made from Maple with a drop front writing surface that opens to a drawer, pigeon holes and dividers. Features three lower drawers with raised panels and brass hardware. The upper display cabinet houses original glass and two shelves for storage.
The Rockford Union Furniture Company was founded in 1876, the promoters being Jonas Peters, John Erlander, John Pehrson and James Sundquist. A young Pehr August Peterson, who was then about to graduate from a local business college, was chosen as secretary of the company. It was the first Rockford furniture company on a large scale to be owned and operated entirely by Swedish settlers. A group of Forest City Furniture Company cabinet-makers and machinists had pooled their money together to launch the business, and had invited a few Swedish merchants as investors, while excluding Yankees. Like the old European craft societies, Union was organized on a cooperative plan, in which workers surrendered a portion of their wages each month as a means of paying expenses, and in return the employees received additional stock in the company. The original factory was located in two large four story brick buildings on South Main Street on the water-power by the Illinois Central Railroad’s freight terminal.
The original factory on South Main Street burned down in 1889, during the fire a number of injuries occurred while fighting the blaze but the most distressing was that of the death of Ralph Emerson, Jr. the only son of Ralph Emerson, Sr. who was president of Emerson, Talcott & Company at the time. Young Emerson was killed when he was knocked from the slippery roof of an adjoining building by the force of a water hose aimed at the furniture company plant. He fell to the ground below, a distance of thirty feet, and struck on the back of his head, and broke his neck, dying instantly. The adjoining building was owned by the Emerson Company and young Emerson had gone to the roof to protect it against flaming embers. A new factory was erected at 1221 Eighteenth Avenue at Ninth Street, the factory re-opened for business in 1890. Rockford Union Furniture manufactured library and dining room furniture. Later the company dropped the ""Rockford"" from its name and was known thereafter as the Union Furniture Company.
Tragedy would strike the Union Furniture Company plant once again on September 14, 1928 when a tornado ripped through Rockford and played havoc on the Union Furniture company plant. The second and third floors collapsed along with its contents and crashed down to the first floor. The large water tank on the roof of the eastern section of the building collapsed when the roof gave way adding its weight to the pile of wreckage below. Several deaths and many injuries were reported at The Union plant. The plant was rebuilt but would cease business around 1933.
Good Antique Condition
39.5" x 18" x 78", writing surface 28.25"