The two terms ‘Made in America’ and ‘American furniture’ are not synonymous. You see both advertised as patriotic sales slogans, yet none of them mean that furniture you buy are 100% American. There are a few reasons for this other than the fact that America can be Canada and South and Central America as well as the USA.
Although it may seem pedantic, the term ‘Made in America’ shall here refer only to genuine American products made in the USA from United Stated materials and by United States employees. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has not placed any form of qualification for the use of the Made in America label, so any company can use it on their products irrespective of county of origin, and this would likely only be discovered if challenged: any company can label any product ‘Made in America’ irrespective of where it was made, and would not be discovered unless a challenge was made.
What is the Significance of ‘Made in America’?
Also, what does the term mean? Can a piece of furniture be labeled ‘Made in America’ if it was assembled in the USA from 100% imported materials – the wood, hinges, brackets and even the door knobs?’ Although there is no definition specified, such a claim predominantly signifies that most of the materials or parts required to produce the item have originated in the USA.
It is allowed to make a qualification to the claim by stating that the item is ‘made in the USA of U.S. and imported parts.” The FTC states that there should be only a negligible amount of foreign materials. Great – now define ‘negligible!’ It may be hard to believe, but this label is a matter of great controversy, and with regard to furniture it is largely over the amount of wood and fittings that do not originate in the USA.
However, there are a good number of of manufacturers that can genuinely label their furniture as genuinely ‘Made in America’ – American wood, American employees and American hinges and knobs. In such cases, the furniture is genuinely made in the USA, and not in Guatemala, Mexico or Canada. Many other countries can manufacture high quality furniture, France and the UK being prime examples, but if the label says ‘Made in America’ then it should be manufactured in the USA from American materials.
Typical American Furniture Manufacturers
Take Simple Amish. This company not only hand-crafts furniture made to a wholly-American design, but uses wood from local forests, and is constructed by Amish people themselves without any external help. Furniture offered by Simply Amish is generally manufactured using wood from forests that are no more than 500 miles from the workshops. The offcuts are not wasted – the Amish use them to make children’s toys, or for firewood if there is no other use for them.
Another American firm that uses all-American woods such as American walnut, cherry and maple, is The Custom Shoppe. It is not generally understood that African walnut is not a genuine walnut species, more of a relative to the sapele or mahogany species, while American walnut is genuinely walnut..
L. & J.G. Stickley Furniture is another American firm with a long history of high quality furniture manufacture in the USA. This firm is known for its unique use of American oak, particularly the quarter sawn oak utilized by Joseph Stickley. All Stickley furniture is made in America using American materials, craftsmanship and employees.
Although American furniture might be made in this country, it could also be manufactured using foreign wood and imported fabrics and fittings. Some companies import precut wood that only needs to be assembled, mush like the flat-packs you can purchase from budget furniture outlets. It is highly unlikely that furniture purchased in multinational stores or supermarkets would be hand-crafted in the United States.
What to Look For in American Furniture
What should you look for if you want to be patriotic and buy American furniture? First check the label: the ‘Made in America’ label is conspicuous, but even if you don’t see it on a beautiful secretaire that you love, you still should ask the question. Ask about the source of the wood, whether the piece was made in the USA or just assembled here, and how much of it was imported. If it looks good enough for your needs, and is English or French-made, then perhaps you might accept it, because such countries are well-known for the high quality of their furniture – but the choice is yours!
Remember that, because use of the label involves no prequalification, it can be used by any company irrespective of the origin of their furniture, although if you feel you must furnish your home with American furniture, then keep an eye open for manufacturers such as Stickley, Southwood, Sherill, American Craftsman an Nichols & Stone. Each component used to construct your furniture might be sourced from elsewhere in the world, but assembled in the USA. Choose the right firm then it will be 100% made in America, as truly American furniture should be.
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