This industry category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing reed, rattan, and other wicker furniture; plastics and fiberglass household furniture and cabinets; and household furniture not elsewhere classified.
Household Furniture (except Wood and Metal) Manufacturing
This industry, focusing largely, though not exclusively, on more specialized furniture production, was dominated in the late 1990s and early 2000s by small firms. Moreover, it was distinguished from most manufacturing sectors in that it was characterized by a trend toward more companies with fewer employees, against overall industrial trends. Of the 212 companies producing such furniture, only one-fifth maintained more than 20 employees; more than half had fewer than five. In all, the industry employed 4,923 people in 2000, down from 5,400 in 1995; of that total, 3,797 were production workers, who earned an average of $10.54 per hour. Shipments for all products in this category totaled $724.7 million in 2000, up from $602.3 million in 1997.
Wicker furnishings have been used in American households since the seventeenth century. The first known craftsmen to advertise wicker furniture were early nineteenth-century basket weavers. During that period, straw and willow were replaced by rattan, which was imported by the East India Company.
In the mid-nineteenth century, wicker furniture, customarily styled with closely woven cane seats and looped reed backs and arms, became increasingly popular. Furniture frames were constructed from hickory and oak pieces that were steamed and bent into shape, then wrapped with split cane. At that time, construction of wicker furniture changed from craft to industry.
Between 1875 and 1910, wicker furniture reached the height of its popularity, in part because of its association with exotic foreign countries. In 1917, Marshall B. Lloyd invented a wicker-weaving machine that used fiber material—the Lloyd Loom. Concurrently, many wicker manufacturers began to experiment with materials such as prairie grass and fiber. Wire grass, converted into a pliable twine and woven into furniture, was...