Goodwin & Co.
Furniture Dealer. Supplied by Boston, New York, and San Francisco.
The firm of Goodwin & Co., (active 1857-1883) was one of the most extensive and enduring furniture establishments to emerge as a result of the California Gold Rush. Their work consists of imported furniture from both New York and Boston as well as California furniture produced by the San Francisco firm of Emanuel and Brother and others. Work from this establishment can often be identified by the stenciled mark of Goodwin and Co., on the drawers and tops of cased furniture. These marks are often accompanied by the firms address. Because Goodwin & Co., operated from numerous locations for more than a quarter century it is easy to narrow the date of manufacture and also determine whether the piece is eastern or California made.
The founder and leading force of the company was James Porter Goodwin (1815-1897). Born in Ireland he immigrated to America with his family at a young age. The family settled in Providence, Rhode Island, where Mr. Goodwin was educated and learned the cabinetmaking business. After serving his apprenticeship he opened a furniture business in Providence. With the news that gold had been discovered in California Mr. Goodwin sold his business in Rhode Island and he set sail, via the Isthmus of Panama November 1849.
Upon his arrival he like many of the argonauts tried his hand a gold mining before realizing that their formal occupation would prove far more profitable than the uncertainties of mining. So, after a brief time mining he returned to San Francisco and entered the furniture establishment of Geo. O Whitney & Co., as a clerk. Having been separated from his family for nearly six years he returned east in 1856. The following year he returned to San Francisco with a stock of furniture and opened for himself as James P. Goodwin. The 1857 Alta California reported his new operation as follows:
New Furniture Establishment. – Our readers will learn by reference to the advertising columns, that a new establishment for the sale of house furniture and bedding (with a branch at Marysville) has been opened in the city by James P. Goodwin, formerly connected with the house of Geo. O Whitney & Co. Mr. Goodwin is an experienced and thorough businessman; and commencing as he does, with a splendid stock, selected at the most noted manufactories in the Eastern States, he expects to merit, as well as receive, a liberal share of city and country patronage. The warerooms in this city are Nos. 130-132 California Street, below Montgomery. In Marysville, corner D and First streets.
The San Francisco Branch of James P. Goodwin is closed in 1859 and reopened in 1860 at 140 Washington Street. They move again in 1861 to 528 Washington Street in San Francisco and open a branch store in Sacramento at 87 J Street. Although Mr. Goodwin is still connected with the Marysville firm, control of the store is turned over to the Manager Joseph Hopley and the name is changed to Hopley & Company, with Mr. Goodwin probably comprising the company.
James Goodwin takes in Philip Holmes as a partner in 1863 and the name is changed to Godwin & Co. Together they acquire the operation of pioneer furniture dealer J. G. Clark in 1863 and assume his Sacramento location at 49 and 51 Fourth Street. Mr. Holmes is recorded as a resident of New York in 1864 and listed in the 1864/65 and 1867/68 Trow’s New York Directory with an occupational tag of “Furniture” working in lower Broadway on Rivingston and Warren Streets. Mr. Holmes is likely the purchasing agent for Goodwin & Co., rather than a manufacturer. Because he relocates to Boston in 1869 through 1872 it is logical to assume that furniture bearing the mark of Goodwin and Co., without the use of western woods that dates from 1864-1869 is made in New York and furniture from 1869-1872 is made in Boston.
The firm exhibits at the San Francisco Mechanics Fair in 1864 and is awarded premiums for upholstery work on an iron spring back chair (probably a cintripical chair), a dining room set, bedroom and parlor furniture. They exhibit again in 1865 and their both is noted for its, “simplicity of design, plainness and harmony of colors, and elegance of finish, they are very fine. Walnut and rosewood frames, and brown or red morocco covering, go well and they attract many admirers.”
In 1866 Joseph Hopley takes over the Sacramento operation and Mr. Goodwin expands his San Francisco operation in 1867 to include 508, 510, 518, and 528 Washington Street. This is likely the result of funding he my have received following a trip east that was reported in the Alta California. “Among the passengers for the Eastern States by the Constitution, is J. P. Goodwin, the pioneer furniture dealer of San Francisco, whose establishment is the largest on the Pacific Coast, and one of the largest in the United States. He leaves us but for a brief time, and with a view to still further increasing his business facilities.” Goodwin & Co., exhibit at the 1867 State Fair in Sacramento and are awarded eleven premiums including best furniture designs, quality, neatness, finish, and durability of Parlor and Chamber furniture.
Goodwin & Co., relocates to 322-334 Pine Street in 1868 and they begin for the first time to manufacture their own furniture. The building is remolded to include a furniture factory and salesroom. His son in law Geo. B. May takes over the Washington Street location, operating under his own name. Goodwin & Co., exhibits at the 1868 Mechanics Fair, where their display of furniture was described by the Alta California.
Goodwin & Co.’s furniture: No city of the United States, or perhaps the entire world, boast such a furniture establishment as that of Goodwin & Co., of this city, it would seem as if he attempted to impose upon public credulity. And yet he does not. His language is simple truth, capable of instant demonstration. This firm whose principle place of business in San Francisco is on Pine Street, in the former Academy of Music, employs a million dollars of capital-three hundred thousand of which is constantly afloat-and some three hundred hands. It has branches in Oregon, Nevada, Sacramento and San Jose, and sends its work into almost every city and hamlet on the coast. At the pavilion its display is most gorgeous. The space occupied is only some few hundred square feet, but the character of the goods contained in that small compass is what excites surprise. A quarter of a century ago an affidavit would have been required to convince our good people that the remotest quarters of the world had not been ransacked to produce them, and that they had not been prepared especially at the order of some imperial czar or wealthy prince. If it had been said that the bridal chair on exhibition came from the hands of the genii, there are some who would have believed the story. It is a marvel of artistic beauty, in its way, as is also the entire set to which it constitutes and adjunct, and which will be found noticed more particularly below.
The visitor must not fail to notice the superiority of the upholstery work, for this is purely Californian in conception and execution. The Messrs. Goodwin & Co., defy the famed establishments of the old world to surpass it.
The following list comprises the articles to be seen in the Goodwin & Co. collection at the fair:
A rosewood chamber set, handsomely ornamented with scroll and carved work.
One maple chamber set, the design of which is surprisingly beautiful and attracts universal attention. The pieces are trimmed with black ebony, which produces a fine contrast.
An elegant étagère of solid rosewood, profusely carved: A center table to match with white Italian marble top.
A parlor set, with rosewood frames, richly carved and covered in green brocade silk, the cost of which was $22.50 per yard: The upholstery plain, but in a matchless style of workmanship.
A library set, with walnut frames, covered with purple bronze morocco, an entirely new color, producing fine effect.
A fan-back parlor set, with walnut frames, covered with drab and blue stripped rep, wreathed in gold: Seats upholstered plain, the backs done in scroll style, tastefully corded with blue and gold material.
The frames of the foregoing pieces were imported. All the upholstery work, however, was done in the shops of the Messrs. Goodwin & Co.
HOME MANUFACTURED FURNITURE
This branch of their exhibition will bear a still closer scrutiny and excite a higher degree of surprise for its magnificence than any of the superb articles described. They comprise the following collection.
1. A French tassel set of ten pieces, covered with French gray silk, tinged with cherry color: trimmed with drab and cherry silk tassels, cord and fringe all made in this city. The upholstery of this set is remarkably unique and beautiful.
2. A Turkish chair, very properly termed the “Bridal Chair.” Many persons regard this sample of our home workmanship as the principle object of interest, next to the woolen fabrics on exhibition. As a production of beauty, aside from its intrinsic merits, it is a “show complete in itself.” The frame was manufactured and carved by Messrs. Goodwin & Co., out of oak. The guilt work was executed by Messrs. Jones & Wool. The upholstery, as a sample of what their establishment can turn out, is submitted with confident belief that no article has ever been finish in this or any other country that could surpass it. Its particularities are embrace in seven different kinds of workmanship. It is covered with French gray silk rep, and a small oval in the back and seat, designed for fancy needlework. To describe it in detail, however, would require too much space, and draw to largely upon the technicalities of the shop. Lucky the bride whose fortune is sufficiently ample to afford this chair, and the splendid set of elaborately finished furniture which accompanies it! Additional are two guilt reception chairs and one ottoman, richly carved and in guilt, representing the very best of San Francisco cabinet work.
3. A beautiful wall-reclining chair, covered with purple-bronze colored French morocco. The upholstery on this specimen also deserves special notice, which will no doubt be bestowed upon it by the tens of thousands of people who will yet resort to the fair.
The notice of such works of utility and art, in terms becoming their merits, without exaggeration or misrepresentation will afford the world beyond the sea some insight into the extent and nature of our industries. No mechanic need seek for employment in this state who does not come recommended for his skill. That we have been thus far fortunate in procuring such, is evidenced by the superior kinds of workmanship that they turn out.
Before the 1868 Mechanics Fair came to a close Goodwin & Co., removed a portion of their furniture to make room for a chamber suite which comprised a bureau, with white marble top, bedstead, washstand and commode. It was considered of “superior quality” and they received a silver medal for California Upholstery.
Sales for Goodwin & Co., for the year of 1869 amounted to $400,000. They exhibited at the Mechanics Fair that year and were awarded a Gold Medal for the best average general display of furniture. The firm was recognized for is importance to the local economy and for its employment “to so many of our skilled, industrious, and deserving mechanics.” The Alta California goes on to note the following:
The house of Goodwin & Co., was established in this city in 1850. It has manufacturing branches in New York and Boston, from which it imports a large portion of its goods. To conduct this extensive business in all its various features considerably over a million dollars are kept constantly invested. The San Francisco branch of the house employs three hundred and fifty men and women, I cabinet making, upholstering, mattress making, as clerks, salesmen, porters, draymen, etc. The announcement of this fact will give the reader some idea of the great importance to the city and citizens to pay a little more attention to the home trade, which, it would seam by the evidences adduced, can put to shame the very best productions of the most skilled Eastern and European mechanics… In the manufacture and arrangement of this furniture the genius of the designer and the skill of the workman are both displayed. Their achievements stand as a kind of quite challenge to the rest of the world: and they do, in fact, throw down the gauntlet, defying superiority.
The reporter notes that the goods now about to be described were all manufactured in this city. A parlor set, in gilt, elaborately carved, is without a name, but we think might appropriately be termed a “chef de’ouvre.” This set is covered in rose-colored silk reps, and upholstered in the very finest style of the art, as practiced by Mr. E. W. Carey, the superintendent of this department. The design of the upholstering is entirely new, and reflects the highest credit upon the workmen who performed it. To gild the frames alone of the set cost nearly $1,000. There is a Turkish chair to match, the back of which represents a basket containing flowers, embroidered on the cloth. The arms represent the leaf of the water lily, and immediately behind is a counterfeit presentment of the lily itself, so perfect in form that one might almost imagine it to be natural. The seat is also elegantly upholstered and embroidered, making the chair as and entirety so luxuriously soft and magnificently ornamented that the parlor, which received it, might be regarded as sufficiently adorned if it contained no other furniture. Ask the ladies if they admire it. A centre table to match this beautiful set stands near, the entire construction and finish of which may be pronounced gorgeous. If San Francisco had no other representative object at the Fair to establish the superiority of her mechanics in skilled labor, she might rest the matter here, and the unbiased judgment of those competent to decide must, beyond a peradventure, ascribe to her the palm of preeminence. A chamber set, in California laurel, trimmed with rosewood and polished till the different pieces reflect images like a mirror, invites and defies criticism. Laurel is our regal wood. It has never been worked to any considerable extent by others than our California mechanics, who have given it a reputation that will soon cause it to supplant rosewood, and thus divert a very important branch of trade to the Pacific Coast. It will not, therefore, be considered strange that this set of furniture attracts a large share of public attention, and elicits frequent outbursts of extravagant admiration. It may be mentioned as an evidence of the particularity with which the deferent parts of this superb set has been put together and finished off, that the locks are “tumbler,” with a double action, and the initials of the firm of Goodwin & Co. Stamped on the keys. A black walnut set, covered in crimson morocco, and upholstered plain, is regarded with much favor by bachelors, students and loungers, fond of taking their comfort at midday in cool places.
These are the principal articles of furniture exhibited by the firm of Goodwin & Co., as of their own San Francisco manufacture. From their New York house they show an elegant rosewood chamber set, a rosewood étagère, two cabinets, inlaid, mosaic style and two gilt bouquet tables.
Financial reports in 1869 indicate that despite Goodwin & Co’s., extensive advertising, grand exhibitions and large inventory the firm’s liability was heavy and their operation to spread out to be successful. They were not thought to be a good credit risk and Mr. Goodwin was said to, “attend closely to business but is not a careful businessman and drinks freely.”
In 1871 Goodwin & Co., was commissioned by the state of Nevada to produce the Legislative desks for the Assembly Chambers of the Nevada State Capital. J. B. Luchsinger & Son however probably executed the work. They also exhibited at the Mechanics Fair of the same year. The display was reported as follows:
Goodwin & Co., of Nos. 322 to 334 Pine Street, is certainly unique of its kind, including several novelties. There is a magnificent parlor suite, covered with crimson brocatelle, and most beautiful upholstery, some splendid walnut chamber sets, both polished and waxed, including a specially handsome dressing bureau; gilt bouquet table, with marble top; a rosewood and walnut étagère; a beautiful carved sideboard, and an inlayed walnut center table of a very choice design. Two of the firm’s most beautiful exhibits are two book and mineral cases, the latter made for the society of Pioneers, of walnut wood, finished in wax the former a cylinder book case of beautiful polished walnut. There is also a novelty of a lounge and easy chair combined, covered with the richest mauve velvet plush, and worth a notice from those who like both luxury and comfort. Messrs. Goodwin & Co., also exhibit an improved bed lounge, of which they have the sole patent right o this coast.
The partnership of Goodwin & Co., comprising the interests of James P. Goodwin, Philip Holmes and Philip’s brother Andrew Holmes, who is thought to have loaned the firm money, is dissolved on June 4, 1872. James Goodwin and his two son in laws, George B. May and George W. Brittan, both long time employees of the firm purchase the San Francisco furniture manufactory of Schafer and Co., in July 1872 for $12,000. As a result they assumed the location of Schafer & Co., at 312 Pine Street and begin purchasing the majority of their stock from local manufactures.
They were awarded a medal at the 1874 Mechanics Fair and their “Elegant Display” of furniture was described by the Alta California.
In the northeast corner of the gallery an elegant display of furniture is made by Goodwin & Co., whose salesrooms are at 312 Pine Street. There are three sets of parlor furniture, which are valued at $500 per set. The first is of brown satin, the second of green satin. These three sets are of the richest description, elegantly upholstered, and would be an ornament to any palatial residence. There is an elegant étagère, trimmed with black and gold and gold brochi goblin tapestry; a sideboard of solid black walnut; a black walnut library case and book case; and a rich chamber set of black walnut, trimmed with French walnut, on exhibition, which attracted the attention and admiration of the visitors, an account of the taste displayed in the combination of colors and the elegancy of the work. There are also of fancy upholstered reception chairs, which are models of workmanship and beauty. One of them, especially, is trimmed with green figured satin and satin tassel fringe, and is valued at $100. All of these articles, manufactured by Goodwin & Co., have been sold to the Crystal Palace Hotel and have been placed on exhibition on account of the richness of their upholstery and the beauty of woodwork.
The San Francisco furniture manufactory, Emanuel Brothers, was the principal supplier of Goodwin & Co., and they were considered “intimate friends” of Mr. Goodwin. It is documented that Emanuel Brothers completed the furniture for the Palace Hotel and therefore likely that Goodwin’s display at the 1874 Mechanics Fair and forthcoming exhibits of furnished were the production of Emanuel Brother. Including the 1875 exhibit, which was described as a “splendid display of California manufacture.”
Goodwin & Co., employ seventy-six people in 1876 and their exhibit in the Mechanics Fair was again reported by the Alta California in great detail.
Interesting Furniture By J. P. Goodwin & Co: Among the prominent exhibits are those of furniture, etc., made by J. P. Goodwin & Co. The first suite on the right is one of the finest New York made walnut chamber suits, costing $700. The workmanship has to be well examined, to be appreciated in all its details. The next is a large, double solid walnut glass-door library case, made in their own factory, under the personal supervision of Mr. Goodwin himself; size about 7 x 10. These same cases are made to any required size and finish costing from $50 to $200. By the side of this they have, in order to exhibit the useful as well as highly ornamental, an armoire, with double doors and tell-tale lock and key. This, also, was made at their own factory, and for finish, we think difficult to excel. They have also one of the real original Eastlake chamber sets. The extreme oddity of this, in contrast to the present style, is rather severe, and we think, for our own taste, not quite a success. However, it is being attempted to introduce it into general favor; but the public have a choice, and we come to the Eastlake parlor suite, covered in crimson satin, walnut frames, veneered with small panels of the French wood, relieving the heaviness of the simple dark walnut. This set rather pleases us, although about the same lines are observed in this as in the set above; still, the upholstering seems to relieve it somewhat from the coldness of the monotonous straight lines.
The designer must have well thought of this, as in examining closely (and it will repay the visitor) there is nothing in its oddity to offend the eye. By the side of this, in extreme contrast, we find another artistic idea of parlor work, covered in cashmere, something after the old Pompadour finished work of the last century. The old-fashioned foot, shaped, as a lions paw, holding the caster, is good; the useful and ornamental corners are here found again. The useful part is that there is sufficient wood left to hold the castor firmly, thus preventing, of all its faults, the worst for the neat housekeeper – broken castors.
Another piece of work, without which no saloon can be well furnished, is the étagère; this is also of their own make and design. From the parlor, the sale a manger comes next, and it is well represented by the splendid sideboard, with its finish of panel doors, trimmed with exquisitely carved birds from the solid wood, the whole overlooked, as it were, by an elk’s head. This piece of work was also made under the immediate supervision of Mr. Goodwin.
There is also up in one corner, not quite so prominently situated, the bridal set, with its cupids on head and foot, and with one small cherub over the glass. This is to fine a set to attempt a description on paper, and must be seen to be appreciated, and was all made in our own home.
Speaking of home work, we could not help but notice the great lack of California production, as we noticed (and just returned from the east and made furniture somewhat a specialty) the great lack in the display of our larger houses, they showing nothing but Eastern workmanship apparently imported for the occasion. And with pride we studied carefully this exhibit, feeling that it was really all California work with one or two exceptions, as Mr. Goodwin’s aim seems to foster our home trade, knowing as he did that we had the material and skill in this state unequalled by any. This success is before us, benefiting all alike, the banker as the mechanic. In passing we almost wish that Mr. Goodwin would send us one of those grandma’s chairs we saw laying about loose, as they put us so much in mind of our boyhood days, they are the Centennial Rocker in full detail.
Street improvements in 1877 compelled Goodwin & Co., to give up their premises at 312 Pine Street and they relocated to a smaller facility across the street at 319 & 321 Pine Street. Out of necessity they held two auctions that year to downsize their inventory and began to carry a smaller amount of inventory. The company failed in 1879 and the California Manufacturing Company purchased the remaining stock and assumed their location on Pine Street. Mr. Goodwin found periodic employment through his friend and associate Emanuel Brother, before his retirement in 1877.
Mr. Goodwin spent the remainder of his life with his family at his San Francisco residence on Taylor Street or at his ranch in Penngrove, Sonoma County before passing away in 1897.