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Friedrich Wenzel

Birth place or City of origin:
State of origin:
Last known City: San Antonio
Last known State: TX
Start/Birth date: 1827
Death/End date: 1902

Animal horn furniture did not begin in America in the Old West. Horn furniture was made in Germany as early as 1833 and first became noticed after it was displayed at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibit in London. Its popularity grew, and by the end of the 19th century, it was being practically mass produced in the Midwest using horns from the longhorn cattle that found their way to slaughterhouses in Chicago and Kansas.

It was first introduced in America at the Chicago Industrial Exposition in 1876, from the Tobey Furniture Company of Chicago, in the form of upholstered chairs and sofas with horn arms. Soon, horns were used for legs and backs of parlor furniture. It was an instant success. By the 1890s, it was made in large quantities by Wolf, Sayer and Heller of Chicago along with many other kinds of objects, such as tables, hall racks, clock holders. It soon found its way to the East where it was considered perfect for another craze: hunting lodges and mountain cabins. It seemed the perfect furniture, conjuring up images of the Old West and the disappearing frontier.

It was finally made in the West in 1880 by the most famous and collectible maker Friedrich Wenzel, in San Antonio. However, much was imported from Topeka, Kansas, where it was made in 1886 by a quality furniture maker, Charles Calwell of Topeka. Many of his pieces are now in the Kansas Museum of History.

When longhorns became scarce around 1900, that marked the end of horn furniture, and until recently, it has been practically forgotten and out of fashion. They became popular once again in the early 20th century and those pieces attributed to an actual maker bring stronger prices.


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