Tuesday, December 13, 2016


December 31, 1863 - October 20, 1928

Early Grand Rapids Furni-
ture Manufacturer Dies in Watersmeet Lodge.


Man of Original and Aggres-
sive Thought, He Pio-
neered New Designs.

   Albert G. Stickley, 64, prominent Grand Rapids manufacturer, died unexpectedly Saturday morning at his estate Stickley Lodge, Gogebic county. He had not been in good health for some time, but death came unexpected, as he apparently had recovered from a heart malady which he suffered four years ago and had actively engaged in the furniture business since that time.

Albert Stickley
Grand Rapids
Stickley Bros. Furniture 
   Albert Stickley was considered to be a man of unusual powers. He combined the qualities of original thinking with aggressive action and thinking with aggressive action and adjusted his business to the ever-changing standards. A thorough sportsman, he played with the same enthusiasm that inspired his work. He was regarded by those who knew him closely as a charming host and a never-failing friend. 


Dining room designed by Davis Robinson Smith for the Stickley Brothers in 1905.

   In the furniture thought he frequently was ahead of the times. He was quick to see new trends and even more quick to adapt his business to frequent changes and innovations. He received most of his ideas and inspiration from human contacts, from the needs of people as he saw them. 

Stickley Quaint American Furniture Hand Painted Bedroom Set.
***Connected to this story is my memories of being told of "Stickley Green", a particular shade developed by Albert.***    

   When debating upon the color of a suit of furniture he would go into the woods and, with an artist, copy the colors of the autumn leaves, the deep green of a spring field or the particular blue of a lake. These he transplanted upon his furniture with charming and artistic effects.
A dining room in Quaint Arts and Crafts designed by Arthur E. Teal for Stickley Brothers in 1908.

   Mr Stickley was among the first to see the growing need of small furniture for the continually decreasing size of the home. This furniture he made after the ideas of early French, English and Colonial designers, naming his product after the quaint persons and places known to history.


James  Seino, head of the first Japanese family in Grand Rapids and probably in Michigan, graduated from the Imperial Academy of Art in Tokyo and studied art in Paris and New York. James Seino worked his entire career in Grand Rapids as head of the decorating department at the Stickley Brothers Co.
   Though not an educated man in the academic sense, Mr. Stickley believed in constructive and upbuilding enlightenment. He was a stickler for accuracy, whether it pertained to the stripe on the leg of a chair or baiting a hook for trout. He was impatient with lethargy and an admirer of genius and industry. 

Stickley Brothers Furniture, Decorating Department 1920's
The photo shows men and women applying decorative designs to various pieces of furniture. At the right is a piece decorated with the oriental motif of a peacock. 

1924 Antique Oriental Cabinet by Albert Stickley-Quaint Mission Design.
   He made and sold his furniture on the merits of its design and construction and often scrapped months of work because of his opinion, might have improved the product.

   In 1924 he was stricken with a heart disorder which then nearly cost his life. For two years his physicians were uncertain as to the outcome. During that period there was scarcely a day some phase of the furniture business did not interest him, although he was forbidden to give thought to such affairs.


Stickley Lodge

The Stickly lodge at Watersmeet was typical of Albert Stickley. 

Music Room
   There he installed an organ costing  upwards of $30,000 and one of the delights he reaped from the investment was to have the Indians, miners and farmers of the upper peninsula hear the music. 

Music Room
    In his years, owing to his precarious health, he abandoned the stress and his active hunting, deriving most of his pleasure from inviting his friends to Watersmeet and hearing them talk about their own achievements.

   Mr. Stickley was born in Pennsylvania. Albert and his brother, J. George Stickley, came from a furniture environment, having been in the business with their father in Binghamton, N. Y., the first company being known as Stickley & Simonds and later Stickley & Brandt.

Stickley Brothers Furniture Co.
   He came to Grand Rapids in 1881 building a factory in that year and starting operation the following spring. For seven years previous to the war Mr Stickley maintained a branch of Stickley Bros. in London.

   Mr. Stickley was a leading member of the Furniture Manufacturers association of Grand Rapids and a member of the Peninsular club and of clubs in Chicago and New York. He divided his time between Grand Rapids, where he had lived at the Pantlind hotel, and his summer home.

   Besides the widow he leaves a daughter, Mrs, C. C. Kusterer, Grand Rapids, and his brother, now in the east.  IRONWOOD DAILY GLOBE OCTOBER 20, 1928

In 1900 Albert Stickley built this yellow-brick Georgian Revival at 60 prospect N. E. The doorway is highlighted by pilasters with a scrolled pediment and finial. Note the elaborate detail in the frieze and medallions of the cornice along the roofline.
MODERN HALLS are worthy of a book themselves, for it is here that one gains the first impression of the house and the hall should be like the title page to a book—an index of what is to follow. The Hall is from the beautiful home of Mr. Albert Stickley, and although the photograph gives some idea of its beauty, it is a pity the camera did not have eyes in the back of its head for the view towards the entrance is equally attractive. 

   Here on either side of a mahogany and coppered glass doorway, are two little charming oval windows, deeply recessed in nooks, that make delightful places for hall palms. The woodwork is selected mahogany, and one feature in particular value is that the mahogany is finished natural, (which makes it only a little darker than cherry) instead of the rather dark, gloomy finish which is commonly used. The floor of this room and in fact of the whole down stairs and the upper halls is of quarter sawed oak. The walls are in a very deep, rich green, the ceiling in neutral buff. The double hangings of the doorways entering the hall give an indication of the color scheme of the adjoining room in the under curtain. In this way the dining room hangings for the entrance to that room, give a touch of bright rich red that is a charming contrast to the deep green of the walls. Rugs with the prevailing colors of old red, deep green, dull gold and brown, and furniture, some in brown English oak and some in mahogany break any tendency to monotony or severity in this particularly attractive hall in an exceptionally attractive home, the credit for which is due to the owner's own taste and judgment. Inside Modern Homes
THE DINING ROOM is the down stairs guest room," the "assembly room of the family." Here each member of the household is supposed to offer up his or her brightest thoughts of the day and to lay aside for the time all personal troubles and join in general good fellowship.    The very word "refreshment" which should apply to the room itself as well as its use. clearly dictates simple, clean treatment. It must be bright and cheerful, not as quiet as the library, not as gay as the parlor nor as frivolous as the bedroom, but with a certain dignified grace and quality of privacy befitting the place "wherein we do the honors of our house.''

    A glimpse of a pillar through the doorway of this dining room clearly shows it belongs to the hall just described. The room here is a fine example of Chippendale design, both in the woodwork and furniture. The woodwork is English oak of a soft brown, wax finish. The ceiling is again a neutral buff and the walls above the brown oak are a deep warm red, not a glaring red. but one that is in quiet harmony with the brown of the wood word. The hardware is in silver finish, the rug is in small figures of dull reds, browns, etc. The contrasts in the room are found in the bright red leather chair seats and the double door hangings—bright red velvet on one side with just a touch of green from the hall. A charming Little Chippendale serving cabinet furnishes the end of the room opposite the open fireplace and mantel with its twin china closets and sideboards. Inside Modern Homes

Bedroom in the house showing furniture and mantel of dark mahogany, with the general color scheme in dull blue. This is a beautiful bedroom in classic colonial style.

60 Prospect N. E. Grand Rapids Michigan.

   The house was converted to apartments in the 1940's and is now going through renovations.

When MRS. DOROTHY JACOBS was a little girl in Grand Rapids her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willard Martindale had a cottage at Macatawa Park. At that resort the little girl Dorothy won the friendship of L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," and in fact came to personify the heroine of the famous writer's stories.
   "Hello, there!" The voice seemed to come from the top of the tree and the tiny, terrified 4-year-old standing under it looked up quickly to see who had discovered her in the very act of picking an unknown neighbor's flowers.

   A tall man, with an enormous mustache and twinkling eyes, was coming down the ladder that led to a platform built high up in the branches of the tree. When he reached the ground the small culprit tried to hand back the bouquet of bachelor buttons which she had plucked from his garden.


   "By all means keep them," he said. "The only reason they were planted was so little girls like you would come and gather them. 'What's your name?" 

   "Dorothy," was the answer. "Well, my little girl is named Dorothy, too, and from now on she's going to wear a blue hair ribbon just like yours."

   This was the first meeting between L. Frank Baum, author of "The Wizard of Oz," and Dorothy Martindale, the youngster who personified to him the heroine of several books he had already written and whose adventures in a magical land have thrilled children for almost 40 years.

A photo taken outside of the L. Frank Baum's Macatawa summer home, nicknamed The Sign of the Goose.
   It happened at Macatawa Park, where Dorothy and her mother, now Mrs. Albert Stickley of Watersmeet, were spending the summer in a cottage right next door to the one owned by the Baums, which was called the Swan. 

***Actually "The Sign of the Goose". Baum was so delighted by the reception of his book, Father Goose, that when he bought a summer cottage with his royalties.*** 


***Macatawa Park opened as a resort in July 1898–originally just a half-mile row of cottages in the limited space between woods and beach. Baum heard about Macatawa from friends at the Chicago Athletic Club.  Ads appeared for the resort in the The Show Window magazine that Baum was publishing.***

Baum decorated his cottage with leaded-glass goose windows, a flying-geese frieze on the walls, and a life-sized goose sign out front. Baum himself made the cottage's wooden furniture, with carved geese designs and nails bearing goose-shaped nailheads.
***These cottages would seem very primitive by modern standards. Not only was there no air conditioning, there was no electricity, no central heat, and no running water. The Baum family sold the cottage in 1909, when they moved to California. The cottage was destroyed in the fire of April 14, 1927, when 35 cottages were lost.*** 


   From then on the little girl and the author spent many hours together. He would tell her tale after tale about her namesake, whom she longed more than anything in the world to meet. Her constant question was "When is she coming here so I can see her?" But Dorothy the heroine was always busy in the fabulous kingdom of Oz, having gay and fantastic adventures with her friends, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow (who seemed very like the casual and rollicking boy who delivered papers to the cottagers).

   Now, after all these years, the real Dorothy has returned to Grand Rapids, the city in which she was born and grew up, to see at last the fairy-tale Dorothy, who has come to life, complete with her blue hair ribbon, in the motion picture, "The Wizard of Oz." 

The theater can be accurately dated by the sign on the corner of the building announcing the grand opening on August 10th and the date of the film named on the marquee, "Within the Law" which was made in 1923.
   Metro Goldwyn-Mayer, producers of the picture which is at the Regent this week, asked her to come and are planning a trip to New York for her.

Today the real-life Dorothy, wife of LODWICK C. JACOBS resides in Watersmeet, Mich., and the episode of her having met Author Baum in her childhood has reached the ears of MGM officials, producers of the current motion picture, and they have arranged a New York visit.
   The little girl who as a real-life Dorothy was an inspiration to Mr. Baum has grown up into an attractive woman. She is the wife of Lodowick C. Jacobs and the mother of three sons, Robert, 16; Bruce, 14, and Albert, 10. Her husband, connected with the state highway department, was formerly of Pontiac, but now they all make their home at Stickley Lodge, deep in the woods near Watersmeet in the northern peninsula.

   ***Lodowick Jacobs  family name was Jacobson, the department store founders. For whatever  he changed his name to Jacobs after the family lost there money during the crash of 1929.*** 


Rowe Hotel
   In their suite at the Rowe hotel, where Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs are staying while in Grand Rapids, she discussed briefly her memories of Mr. Baum.

L. Frank Baum reading on the porch of the Sign of the Goose.
   "He and Mrs. Baum loved children," she said. "And everything about their cottage was intended to attract them. There was a lovely garden, the only one at the beach, and a little swan chair in which I delighted to sit and, rock and listen to his stories. When my friends would visit me he would gather them all around him, take one on his knee and tell us what was going on in Oz. He always smoked a pipe and wore tweedy-looking, clothes." Mining Journal 1939

Once a hotel built in the 1920's to house visitors attending Grand Rapids’ semi-annual Furniture Market, converted into a retirement home in the 1960's. At the end of December 2014, it was announced that after over a decade of standing vacant the building would be transformed into “The Rowe”.
   In a six degree of separation concept, Sam Cummings, who lived at and then donated "Brookby House" to Aquinas College, is partner in CWD, the company involed in the redevelopment of The Rowe. Follow THIS LINK for more on the history of the Rowe Hotel.

Albert Stickley, 1906.
Originator of the Mission type of furniture.
   Stickley Bros. Company was organized in 1891 by Albert Stickley, and incorporated with $100,000 capital was located on Godfrey avenue. During the first year of its existence, the company employed about 75 men with an output of $170,000, and manufactured fancy chairs and all kinds of tables. By 1905 he employed 275 employees, an output of $400,000 and an increase of capital invested to nearly a half a million. Mr. Albert Stickley was president, J. R Carpenter, vice-president; E. L. Maddox, treasurer, and P. H. Read,the secretary.

   In addition to this immense furniture business, the company operated a tannery for the tanning and finishing of Spanish leather. They also manufactured a line of Russian hand beaten copper, besides conducting an inlaying marquetry plant, under the name of T. A. Conti & Co., which turned out some of the finest inlaid work of any plant in the country. From 1897 to 1902 the company maintained a warehouse and branch factory at London, England, employing about 75 men.

   Carl Forslund, founder of Forslund Furniture in Grand Rapids worked for Albert Stickley.

John Wood Blodgett
   In a letter dated October 20, 1928 to E. L. Maddox, treasurer at Stickley Bros. Co., John Wood Blodgett writes - 

I have suggested to Mr. Stanton that they wire you about the sudden death of Mr. Stickley. In a sense, of course, it was not unexpected, although I had not heard he had been lately in a worse condition than before. I will try to send you clippings from the newspapers. This morning's Herald had only a brief account, because the news came in so late.

Harry Stanton went back to his old job last Monday morning. Later yesterday afternoon he came into the office. I then asked him if he had written you that he was back in the Stickley office. He said no, that he had not, and did not know if it would be permanent. He said Mr. Stickley was very nervous, and was not in any physical condition to handle the business, That the business had changed very much since he was in it, and he did not feel competent to run it - at any rate it would be a process of education.

He said the only thing for Stickley to do was to sell out or merge and relieve himself of the burden. He said he was willing to stay and help Stickley to that extent, but no further. He said that Stickley would return next Monday, the 22nd, and he was going to have a talk with him, and advise him of his(Stanton's) conclusions. If Stickley agreed he would stay and help him out, but if not, and Stickley persisted in going on with the business, he would advise him to get some expert furniture man and he, Stanton, would step out. 

It is sad situation, and I suppose we will see you before this letter reaches Sacramento, although I am sending it by air mail.

With best regards to Mrs. Maddox, believe me, Sincerely yours, JW Blodgett

   Being a prominent member of Grand Rapids society and a player in the lumber business its clear  Albert Stickley  and John Blodgett were at least acquaintances. Blodgett had holdings in the Upper Peninsula and was likely a guest of Mr. Stickley. Would he have met Dorothy and known about her story? Perhaps

   In a later letter to E. L. Maddox dated November 6, 1928 - 

I voted in good season this morning, at the hour of 8:00 A. M. There never has been within 50% of the number cast that were cast in several precincts this morning at that hour. If this thing is nation wide, it means a landslide, because in this city this vote means nothing but Hover. The women were at the polls at 7:00 o'clock.

***Blodgett was a big Hover supporter.***

Harry Stanton told me yesterday that he thought that P. H. Travis had always looked after your business matters here, and I called Mr. Travis by telephone and found, to my great satisfaction, that you had retained him and he just had a letter from you to which I suppose he is replying today. 

You could be in no better hands, and I think you have nothing to worry about. Confidentially, Mrs. Stickley has retained Norris, McPherson, Harrington & Waer. Mr. Waer has her matter in charge. In talking with him, I mentioned the fact that I heard from you and you were interested in the estate, and he said Mrs. Stickley had mentioned that fact to him, and I am sure she has also mentioned it to Mr. Stanton. At this time it is , of course, not known whether there will be any litigation over the estate, Ar any rate, unless the furniture business improves, the estate will not be nearly as large as was supposed, and if the last will is sustained, the widow will get practically everything and Mrs. Kusterer will have nothing.

Stickley was a good fellow but more or less erratic and his expenditures in his Gogebic home were entirely out of proportion to his means.

So far as you are concerned, you have nothing to worry about in my judgment, and the only question you have to consider is  when will you get your money. As Mr. Travis has undoubtedly written you, the hearing on the wills will not be held until November 27th, and then it will be settled as to which will be admitted. In the meantime, I will keep in close touch with Mr. Travis and will have Stanton do so, and you can rest assured anything we can do for you we will do most gladly. 

Please give regards to Mrs. Maddox, JW Blodgett

   Albert's death proved complicated. Florence, the daughter from his first marriage, and Emlyn, his second wife, each produced a will signed by Albert granting them the bulk of Albert's sizable estate. In the earlier will, dated November 24, 1924, Albert left his estate to Florence and her three children. In the second will, dated March 15, 1926, Albert named his second wife Emlyn as principle heir. After months of wrangling, the two women settled out of court, agreeing that Albert's second will would stand. The amount which Florence received from Emlyn was not revealed, but the disbursements Albert had included in his last will were made public.   

Albert died in 1928 but was not buried at Oak Hill Cemetery until 1931. The "fitting monument" was never commissioned.

   When Albert died he had three living brothers, two of whom, Charles and Gustav, had seen their savings wiped out as their factories closed. Leopold, like Albert, had amassed a sizable fortune. They also had four sisters: Louise, Mary, Emma and Christine. Albert left each of his four sisters $25,000 - the equivalent today of approximately $342,000. To his brothers Albert left nothing. In their settlement, his daughter and his second wife did also agree to spend $5,000 ($68,000) on a fitting monument over Albert's grave.

Stickley Lodge
   Albert's lodge, described as "palatial'' in newspaper accounts, had eight bedrooms and a huge pipe organ. Albert had an organist from Iron River play at parties he hosted, sometime uniting local farmers, miners and Indians. Albert also entertained leading business figures of the day. The lodge burned shortly after Albert's death: however, the horse barn, converted to a cottage, and the old log sauna remain. 

Follow THIS LINK for more on "Stickley Lodge".

L. Frank Baum

Dorothy Gale and winged monkey.
    My Great-grandmother was the niece of Mrs' Stickley. So, as a child the story was bent in my mind that Dorothy Martindale Jacobs was the inspiration for Baum's Dorothy. I have vague memories of her - petite with long(confined) white hair, always sitting in a chair. 

   Its been suggested that claims of being the REAL inspiration have been floated. The only first person interview that quotes her specifically is the above Mining Journal article. 

   Its clear she states the book had already been published. She was born on December 13, 1900 . If the story is correct at four it would have been 1904. Baum left in 1909. If anything they met and he befriended her. "Well, my little girl is named Dorothy, too, and from now on she's going to wear a blue hair ribbon just like yours."

  Another claimant Dorothy Hall Hall dismisses her claim. "She said she picked flowers there, and there weren't any flowers, just sand," Hall sniffed. "She didn't even live near them."

   HOWEVER a biography of Baum quotes a contemporary interview with him in Macatawa. “I found… Mr. Frank Baum, hovering over the beautiful flower bed which graces the front yard of his pretty cottage.” 

   In a set of interviews in the late 1970's (when she about 80 years old), Dorothy Hall denied believing that she had inspired Dorothy Gale, herself pointing out the greatest problem–that she was born in 1897 and only two at the time of the first draft of Oz, and one in 1898 when one of Baum’s sons first remembered hearing Dorothy stories–so she was an unlikely inspiration.

   In later interviews in the 1980's, when she was about 90, Hall seemed to succumb to the wishes of those around her, and advocated the case that she was indeed the particular inspiration for Dorothy.

   My "Dorothy" had enough credibility to her story to have the producers from MGM studios invite her on a personal appearance tour.

   "Mrs. Jacobs is reported to be in the east this month, on a personal appearance tour as the girl who inspired the heroine of the Oz books. Her tour has been arranged by the motion picture  firm which produced The Wizard of Oz." THE BESSEMER HERALD, SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 

   When he told Oz stories to the Dorothy's in the years after the first book he would tell the tales in the second person, saying “you” instead of Dorothy.

A girl in a gingham dress with checks of white and blue approached by a monkey. Summer of 1899, Macatawa Park. Could  this be the "first" inspiration for Dorothy?

Evergreen Memorial Cemetery Bloomington, IL
   What seems to be concluded now the name "Dorothy" came from a tragic event. On June 11, 1898, in Bloomington, Illinois, a daughter, Dorothy Louise Gage, was born to Sophie Jewel and Thomas Clarkson Gage, the brother of Maud (Gage) Baum. Maud and L. Frank Baum had four sons, and Maud had always longed for a little girl. On November 11, 1898 (five months later to the day), little Dorothy died.
Willard A, Martindale
Grand Rapids
W. A, Martindale & Co.

   One of the largest fire, accident and liability agencies in Grand Rapids is conducted by Willard A. Martindale & Company. Mr. Martindale has been in the insurance business for many years, and numbers among his policy-holders a large percentage of the leading business men and manufacturers of the city. 

   Mr. Martindale has not only built up one of the largest insurance agencies in the city, but has established a reputation for prompt attention and complete satisfaction in the settlement of every loss. The companies represented by him are among the largest in the world in point of assets and financial resources. In fact, they are the leaders among the insurance companies. The Men Behind the Guns in the Making of Greater Grand Rapids, 1909

   William A. Martindale was the first husband of Mrs. Stickley and the father of the future Dorothy Jacobs. I'm unaware of the circumstances on why the two hooked up during the time such behavior was consider a scandal. It was enough to put the first Mrs. Stickley to bed where she died soon after and the newlyweds to retire to the wilds of the Upper Peninsula. There must have been enough of a father/daughter feeling that Dorothy named one of her sons Albert Stickley Jacobs. 

   Today was Dorthy Martindale Jacob's birthday, 116 years ago today. 

   Additional links - From Brothers to Partners to Rivals: A Stickley Legacy
Furniture Detective: Stickley Bros. may be behind ‘Quaint’ furniture

Official Website of L. & J. G. Stickley


L. Frank Baum and the Macatawa Goose Man: Celebrating the origins of "The Wizard of Oz"

The Story of Dorothy Gage, the Namesake for Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz Club convention returns to Holland after 25 years


  1. I'm Shirley (Gusman) Moore. I enjoyed reading this article about my childhood home, Stickley Lodge. I lived there from 1944 until the lodge burned down in 1954. I have nothing but love for that place and have looked for more clear and accurate photos of that place. Oh, have I got stories to tell!! HOWEVER, what I'm seeing in this article is not entirely true....sadly. I'm going to add more information here from my life there personally.

  2. This was my great-great grandpa. I would love to hear all of your stories please.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.