Weaving the tale of Lloyd Loom furniture
PUBLISHED: 10:27 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 10:27 22 January 2018
Mike Hicks tells the story of Lloyd Loom.
The rather deceptively simple woven product called Lloyd Loom has quite a story to tell.
Firstly, it was an American invention (even though it looks terribly British), and, secondly, it is not woven wicker at all, for Lloyd Loom is created principally of paper covered wire.
Its originator was Marshall Burns Lloyd, born in Minneapolis, USA in 1858, the son of a British immigrant. Even in his early teens he proved himself an inveterate inventor by redesigning a wicker clothes hamper (woven wicker work seems to be much more a tradition in the USA and Canada than it is in Great Britain).
Because of his invention and adaptation of the clothes hamper, he ensured that his name was added to millions of such products produced in the future. In his early 20s, he tried his hand at real estate, making himself a small fortune in a very short time but his true talent lay in inventions.
By his mid-30s he had filed a patent covering the invention of a woven wire doormat. This led to other patent ideas and he started his manufacturing company called “Lloyd Loom” based in Michigan. Here he started produced of the now famous Lloyd Loom furniture. It was not long before he had established franchises in various parts of the world. By then, the product was used in hotels, ocean liners, and even airships.
In 1917 he patented a machine that revolutionised the manufacture of steel tubing, securing him a very substantial revenue. By this time he was a very wealthy man and in 1921, he sold out his business to a competitor, Heywood Wakefield. Here, in Britain, the desire to manufacture Lloyd Loom was eagerly sought by a wealthy wood producer called W Lusty and Sons at Bromley-by-Bow in London’s East End. Aftre a slow start, British sales took off.
The basic method of manufacture changed very little from America to Britain. Initially, the product consisted of a tough bentwood skeleton frame, this was then covered with sheets of woven panels of paper-covered wire, upholstered in the same manner as any item covered with fabric. The next part of the process was to dip the product in a weak solution of glue to size before painting. At any one time Lusty’s store would have had up to 60,000 pieces of furniture in stock.
At its peak, the Lusty Lloyd Loom catalogue listed some 400 designs, available across 8,000 outlets in Britain alone. But by the mid-1950s Lusty Lloyd Loom’s story had ended with the parent company, Heywood Wakefield going into liquidation.
A new company in Spalding started producing the original hand-crafted articles with the Marshal Burns Lloyd process but sadly, it too folded - but it is still not the end of the story.
Today production takes place mainly in Indonesia, China, Vietnam, the USA and the UK. There is only one company making Lloyd Loom furniture in Europe and that is Lloyd Loom Manufacturing, established by the former Lloyd Loom of Spalding employees.
There’s a useful book, Lloyd Loom Woven Fibre Furniture, by Lee J Curtis (Salamander Books).
Mike Hicks runs Stalham Antique Gallery at 29 High Street, Stalham (NR12 9AH). You can contact Mike on 01692 580636 or firstname.lastname@example.org.