In 1883, the five Stickley brothers began making and marketing furniture in the arts and crafts style. Growing out of the simple, straight lines of Mission-style furniture, Arts and Crafts furniture balances functional simplicity and art. One of the first steps in identifying a Stickley chair is to determine whether it is in the Arts and Crafts style. Look for straight lines on heavy -- but well balanced -- furniture. Legs, arms and back supports are often flat and tapered near the top, like elongated pyramids. Most Arts and Crafts furniture is free of embellishment such as scrollwork, filigree or flowers. Dark stains and leather upholstery also characterize Arts and Crafts furniture.
To determine if your chair is a Stickley, examine the joints at each leg. At the point where the leg supports are inserted into the leg, Stickley woodworkers insert a small dowel called a pin. You'll see the round head of the pin flush with the leg and stained the same color as the chair, but it is distinct and easy to spot. At the point where the back supports are inserted into the seat, larger, wedge-shaped pins are used. While these methods are not exclusively used by Stickley, they are an indication of the construction characteristic of Stickley furniture.
Shop marks are identifying marks applied by a manufacturer to each piece of furniture they make. Throughout the years, as the Stickley brothers formed and changed the various companies they each ran, the shop marks they used changed. Look for decals, paper labels, brands burnt in the wood or metal tags. A joiners compass appears often as a shop mark. It is an upside-down U with a single screw through both legs. In the center of the U is the motto, "Als Ik Kan." Underneath the U is Gustav Stickley's signature. The joiners compass has been used as a shop mark periodically from 1902 to the present. A complete history of Stickley's shop marks can be found at the Stickley Museum's website.
If you are unable to identify your chair using a shop mark, consider contacting The Stickley Museum directly. They encourage customers to contact them regarding antiques they believe to be part of Stickley's history.