Want to take a walk through furniture history?

Recently I spent an hour (or two) perusing the interactive historical timeline on Steelcase’s website. As it happens, Red Thread is the only Steelcase Dealer in New England (Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut) so I thought it was high time to brush up on my Steelcase history and see what historical imagery they’ve got in the archives. I had alot of fun and I found some gems that I just had to share especially with the designers out there!

Briefly, Steelcase was founded in 1912 as the Metal Office Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan – which makes it over 100 years old! In 1914 the company received their first patent for a process developed to make a strong, durable, low-cost fireproof wastebasket and the rest is history! Here are the highlights of the first 60 years…

1915 | First Desk Sale
The first product line includes safe deposit vault equipment, lockers, strong boxes, steel shelving, and wastebaskets. However, this doesn’t stop Metal Office Furniture Co. from bidding on and winning the production of 200 metal desks for the Customs House Tower, Boston’s first skyscraper. Steelcase designed and manufactured a sample steel desk in one week!

1915 desk

1924 | Desk Strength and Durability
Metal Office Furniture Co. starts to thrive and steel furniture gains acceptance. The 621 desk was designed to be fireproof and because of the manufacturing process, is able to support up to 6,000 pounds. This is the first desk to be offered in olive green rather than a faux wood-grained finish.


1937 | Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Furniture for S.C. Johnson Wax Building
The Metal Office Furniture Co. wins the bid to manufacture office furniture for the S.C. Johnson Wax Building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Racine, Wisconsin. Over the course of a two-year design and production partnership with Wright, they create task-oriented furniture which eventually becomes the modern workstation.

1927 SC Johnson Wax

1946 | Multiple 15 Desk Introduced
Metal Office Furniture Co. introduces a postwar desk that is designed on 15-inch modules, allowing for better space planning in open offices. By 1960 it will be a universal standard in the industry.


1953 | Sunshine Styling Color an Industry First

Sunshine Styling is introduced for metal office furniture. The new paint colors are Desert Sage, Blond Tan, Mist Green, and Metallic Gray with Flame, Cordovan, Bamboo, and Blue following shortly after. These colors are an industry first, and the rest of the office furniture industry swiftly follows suit.


1963 | Steelcase Coordinated Offices Introduced
Now known as Steelcase, the company launches a national advertising campaign introducing Steelcase Coordinated Offices (SCO) with the message – Steelcase can meet all office furniture needs, including color coordination and installation.


1973 | Series 9000® Introduced
As white collar workers flood the workforce and computerized offices take hold, Steelcase introduces Series 9000®, soon to become the world’s leading systems furniture line. This new line of panels and worksurfaces places Steelcase ahead of the competition for systems furniture.


1974 | 430 Chair Introduced
“The chair that loves people,” is introduced at NeoCon setting a new standard in office seating design by focusing on comfort contouring – it’s an early attempt at ergonomics designed for the employee who sits all day long.

430 Chair

There’s clearly more to the story but these are definitely some milestones. Check out the Steelcase historical timeline to learn more! Want to see more unique and innovative products from the current Steelcase portfolio? Get in touch! As the only Steelcase dealer in new England – we’d love to help!

AUTHORED BY: Petra Geiger
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