An Introduction by Paul Kemner & Peggy Zdila
Charles P. Limbert was born in Lyonsville, Pennsylvania in 1854 and died at his home outside Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1923.
Influenced by the heavily Dutch population of the Grand Rapids area, Limbert started designing and building "Dutch Arts and Crafts" style furniture and lighting at his Grand Rapids factory in 1902. He always used the phrase "Arts and Crafts," and never the word "mission" to describe his furniture. He was a student of European furniture designs, acknowledging the influence of the German and Austrian Secessionists on his work. British (particularly Charles Rennie MacKintosh), Japanese, and American Prairie School influences are also evident in Limbert forms. Limbert visited Europe on more than one occasion, and studied examples of Dutch peasant furniture.
Limbert claimed that the original Spanish Mission Style was derived from Dutch furniture designs. He employed a designer of Austrian background named William Gohlke. Paul Horti, famous for Shop of the Crafters designs, also designed some furniture for Limbert. Of all American Arts and Crafts furniture makers, Limbert was perhaps the best known for his use of decorative cutouts, including squares, spades, hearts, etc. While Arts and Crafts enthusiasts may not find all Limbert designs aesthetically pleasing, the good designs are very good.
He emphasized high quality in materials and joinery techniques, but his line was diverse enough to include outdoor furniture in the Arts and Crafts style. Like Gustav Stickley, Limbert also produced a short-lived line of inlaid furniture and, like Stickley's, the line was not a commercial success. That the Charles P. Limbert Company stayed in business during and after WWI is a tribute to the appeal and success of its products with consumers. Limbert's furniture was also chosen to outfit the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park in 1906.
Charles was the son of a furniture dealer and cabinet maker, Levi H. Limbert. He first joined the furniture industry as a salesman, and in that capacity he was highly regarded. In 1894 he started a Grand Rapids, Michigan manufactory making chairs, all the while continuing to act as a sales agent for other furniture makers. He is recognized for having popularized the rustic furniture of Old Hickory of Martinsville, Indiana.
In 1906, he opened a factory in Holland, Michigan where he produced furniture until 1922 when ill health prompted him to sell off his interest in the company. Limbert said that he wanted a more healthy and productive location for his workers. The Holland factory was a scenic site with indoor and outdoor recreational facilities for the workforce. It was also accessible by interurban trolley line from Grand Rapids.
Limbert's furniture has justly seen a reawakening of interest in the current Arts and Crafts Revival.
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