Mission furniture style started despite the lack of home and cabinet-making expertise in its roots. It was supposedly started in California where a group of righteous folk desired to establish a church but could not afford experienced help. Therefore they constructed the building themselves.
The result was a very plain, straight line – rather uncomfortable but quite serviceable – church building.
Upon finishing this new straight line dwelling, furniture for the interior was needed and so they used the same simple straight lines to design the needed furniture.
This new idea of plain construction became popular with the public, and it is also called “Craftsman” furniture. A cabinetmaker named Gustave Stickley further refined the lines of this furniture.
Short-lived popularity. Around 1910, this craftsman’s style was changed to “Mission” by designation. Soon every responsible furniture manufacture joined the parade of the “Mission” style.
However as fast as this new furniture style grew in popularity, it became a trend of the past just as fast – undoubtedly one of the shortest lived fashions in America.
Originally ash was used, however due to supply and demand oak was soon the standard wood utilized. This wood was stained or “fumed” and is mostly quite dark in appearance.
Old hotels used this furniture frequently in halls and waiting areas, and public buildings used it. These sturdy pieces – heavy and practical in appearance – can still be seen in many buildings.
Clocks, too. Whoever made the first Mission clocks has been lost to history. Most clock makers of that era designed and distributed these clocks for use on walls, shelves and even as tall clocks. Unusual appearing clocks were sold as novelties.
The first Mission clocks did not have glass covering the dial face, and therefore became known as “blind man’s clocks” because the sightless could feel the position of the hands and the numbers.
Over time, straight lines were changed to some ornamentation and glass fronts were added, even a few with decorative stained glass. Scroll work on the wood that framed the clock faces and works even took on the appearance of doors, frame and all.
Up until World War I, Mission clocks were popular; after the conflict they disappeared from markets.