Rattan-Wicker What’s the difference?
Rattan is a “vine” which comes from a climbing palm called Calamus, also known as the rattan palm. Rattan grows in the tropics up to 600 ft long and is environmentally friendly Ecologically, rattan is very important. It grows in degraded forests and in marginal soil. It can also be introduced artificially in natural forests without disturbing the existing structure and balance.
Rattan is among the oldest natural furniture material in use today. Unlike bamboo, which is hollow, rattan is a solid timber vine that grows in the jungles of Indonesia.
Wicker is a weaving process, not a material. The word wicker probably comes from the Scandinavian word wicka meaning to weave. Examples of wicker work have been found in Egypt dated 3000 years ago. Any reed or vine like material could be used to make baskets etc. Wicker furniture has been made for centuries but fell out of favour in the 17th and 18th Century. The Victorian era saw a resurgence of the use of wicker. It was light, durable and well suited for use on the extravagant porches of the period.
One of the materials used in the weaving process is called rattan core, which comes from the rattan interior.
North American Wicker furniture started when a grocer named Cyrus Wakefield discovered large quantities of rattan on the docks of Boston. The material was used to keep cargo from shifting. Wakefield was fascinated by the potential of the vine and he. sold his grocery store and started the Wakefield Rattan Company in South Reading, Massachusetts. He managed to corner the market and eventually started making his own furniture
The Wakefield Rattan Company grew tremendously during the 1860s and virtually cornered the market on wicker furniture. Wakefield became a rich man; after his death in 1873, the town of South Reading renamed itself Wakefield in appreciation for all the jobs he created and the money he donated to the town.
Meanwhile, the Heywood Brothers Company, the largest wood chair manufacturer in the United States, began using rattan in the making of their chairs. An inventor employed by this company invented a loom to weave the cane and a way to install the cane seats so that they did not have to be hand woven. Automation reduced the cost of making wicker furniture dramatically. Before long, the Heywood Brothers Company and the Wakefield Rattan Company were fierce competitors
In 1897 the two companies merged and became the pre-eminent Rattan furniture company in North America, with 9 warehouses in the States and 2 in England. They bought up competitors such as the American Rattan Company. The Canadian branch of the American Rattan was merged into the conglomerate, Canadian Furniture Manufacturing Co. in 1901.
The Imperial Rattan Company continued as an independent in Stratford.
Marshall Burns Lloyd was born in St. Paul Minnesota in 1858 and when still an infant his family settled in Meaford Ontario, They were not wealthy and Lloyd was forced to go to work to help out. He was an inventor by desire and used his employment to fund inventions. After spending time in Toronto selling jewellery among other things he ended up in Port Arthur as a mailman. Hearing the opportunities in Winnipeg, he sold his watch for a rail ticket and went to Winnipeg where he worked as a waiter until a lucky conversation gave him a tip and he bought a piece of land that he sold the same day for a profit of $150. Encouraged by this he went into Real Estate and made enough money to move to the States where ho continued to work on his dreams. He invented a method of weaving wire into door and place mats which he sold to the White Manufacturing Co. in return for a partnership. He then invented a method of making woven wire spring mattresses which he patented and sold rights for production to various concerns for enough money to buy the rest of the White Company. He then patented a method of making baby carriage wheels from wire and from these inventions he had enough income to experiment for 10 years on creating a machine to make seamless, thin metal tubes.
This invention made him independently wealthy. He then turned his attention to the weaving of rattan. In 1917 he invented a loom that could weave twisted kraft paper into a woven fabric, reinforced with steel wire. This woven fabric was used on cane, or bent wood frames, to make extremely durable furniture. Lloyd Loom furniture became very popular and could be seen on ocean liners, in hotels and tea rooms, and graced the Royal boxes at Wimbledon and Henley The combination of his metal tubing, wire baby carriage wheels and the ability to created low cost woven bodies allowed Lloyd to dominate the Baby Carriage market. In order to protect his Canadian patents, Lloyd opened a factory in the Tudhope building on the corner of West St in Orillia.
Early in the 20th century, as public taste veered toward straighter lines and more simple designs in furniture, Victorian wicker began to be considered too ornate. About 1910, the Heywood Brothers and Wakefield Company started designing wicker in the popular Mission style.
Recognizing the popularity of Lloyd’s innovations, the Heywood Brothers and Wakefield Company bought the Lloyd Manufacturing Company in 1921 and simplified the company name to the Heywood-Wakefield Company. Unfortunately, synthetic machine-woven wicker lost its appeal in the 1930s. The Heywood-Wakefield Company was forced to switch to wood and metal chairs. In 1979, the company stopped making furniture all together. In 1992 a company in Florida bought the right to the Heywood-Wakefield concern and has started remaking their furniture under the Heywood-Wakefield name