Have you ever gotten a shiver when you discover something the moment you were supposed to discover it? You know you are where you are supposed to be, as it was meant to be? Or sometimes you don't know until later that it was the right choice. The shiver was your only sign.
Recently I bought an old Ethan Allen bureau and hutch for my office and I began to wonder if my end tables and my coffee table were also Ethan Allen. They are maple, with the same hardware and similar in look. But I didn't take the time to tip one over and look at the bottom. Until this morning.
Last night I looked on Craigslist with my mother for an antique dresser to match her fabulous headboard and foot board. We wanted to narrow our search to "good, strong, quality" brands and couldn't think of any other than Ethan Allen. We finally thought of Thomasville and a couple others but little could be found on Craigslist.
So this morning, I took the polished rock, the lipstick and the little glass candle holder off the coffee table and tipped it over. Baumritter. I googled it, as any interested person would do.
What I discovered was that Theodore Baumritter and his brother-in-law, Nathan Ancell founded the Baumritter Corporation in New York City in 1932, making garden swings and plaster gnomes, among other household items.
In 1936 they took what I imagine to be a leap of faith and bought out a failing furniture company in Beecher Falls, Vermont. Theodore and Nathan fell in love with Vermont and the craftsmanship and style of early American furniture. In the midst of the depression, they hired workers and began to produce a line of furniture they named after Vermont's Green Mountain Boys' revolutionary war hero, Ethan Allen.
In 1939 they announced the Ethan Allen line of furniture, naming their first collection as "Heirloom". The Ethan Allen Heirloom collection remained popular for over 50 years, but the company continued to evolve, bringing in a "modern" line of furniture in 1951. New lines continued to be introduced, but the Ethan Allen Heirloom continued to be a top seller. Theodore retired in 1969 or 1970 and Nathan Ancell decided to go public, changing the name of Baumritter Corporation to Ethan Allen, Inc.
The company today remains a symbol of quality and beauty. People compare their furniture to Ethan Allen, when trying to sell it. "Three drawer dresser made with Ethan Allen quality" or "This dining room set is as good as Ethan Allen".
I say, BRAVO to Theodore and Nathan for caring about craftsmanship, quality and value. My Baumritter stamped tables are, indeed, Ethan Allen tables and they are lovely. Just as lovely as my Ethan Allen stamped dresser and hutch.
Today I found a reprint in the New York Times, announcing Theodore Baumritter's obituary in 1994. What made him decide to buy that bankrupt furniture company back in the heart of the depression? It was risky. It was dangerous and bold. Did he feel that shiver? Did he and Mr. Ancell know right away they were in the right place at the right time? Or did they realize, only later, that it was meant to be? A part of them will remain with every piece of furniture passed down from generation to generation. And their ancesters will always be able to remember them with pride.