vintage Harden dresser

What Happened to Harden Furniture? The Sad Truth about one of America’s Best Furniture Companies!

About Harden Furniture

Harden Furniture used to be a premier brand for luxury furniture stores.

Harden bedroom furniture, living room and dining room furniture decorated the most high end furniture stores around the country.

Indeed, most high end retailers looked at Harden as one of the best quality recommendations they could make to their clientele.

Their traditional styles and fine solid wood furniture spoke of timelessness and true quality.

Today, sadly, Pre-Owned Harden Furniture can only be found in select places.




Who Sells Harden Furniture?

Essentially, you can only purchase Harden Furniture at

  • Vintage Stores
  • Antique Stores
  • Thrift and Charity Shops
  • Fine Consignment Shops
  • Online Antique Stores
  • Craigslist Furniture Section
  • Ebay Stores
  • Chairish and Other Online Platforms

Furniture Manufacturing has finally halted at the Mcconnellsville, New York Factories as of 2018.

Harden Furniture Liquidation sales of all wooden parts and machinery took place during the last quarter of 2018. Customers, woodworkers, office workers and retailers said goodbye for the last time to Harden Furniture.



Harden Furniture History

Harden Furniture stayed a family company until its last few years and witnessed five generations of owners with the Harden name. harden furniture history

The Harden family settled in Northern New York State (North of Syracuse, near the Canadian border) in the 1840’s. At that time, Charles S. Harden Sr., had returned home to the New York area after his adventurous spirit took him out west to search for gold.

While no gold nuggets turned up in the Colorado mines, Charles established a successful saw mill on the winding Fish Creek in New York.

His son, Frank, took a great interest in the saw mill and wood arts. It was at this time that the father and son duo saw opportunity utilizing their lumber and sawmill to build bridges. They formed a successful bridge construction company during the summer months. During harsh New York winters, they started making kitchen chairs.

These chairs gained popularity and jump started a new venture! Next, Harden started producing parlor chairs, rockers and upholstered pieces in the late 1800’s.



Harden Cherry Furniture

In the 1930’s, Frank’s son, Harry, made a huge transformation to Harden’s product line. Previously, Harden craftsmen used mahogany, maple and birch wood. Harry Harden decided to make native black cherry the focus in the company’s fine furniture goods.

From this point forward, cherry wood harvested from local New York forests became the main component of Harden Furniture.

In fact, Harden purchased thousands of acres of forest and implemented a sustainable forestry program.

harden cherry furnitureMost recent owner, Greg Harden, spoke of Harden’s commitment to harvest select trees to allow for new growth and regeneration of their forests.

In fact, one of Harden’s slogans was “Harden Furniture: From the Forest to your Home.” Their focus on environmental sustainability earned them national recognition as well.

This commitment to the production of solid cherry furniture led the company to huge success in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. Known for its durability and beauty, cherry furniture by Harden developed into a status symbol for fine homes. At its peak, the company employed 500 people and produced and distributed thousands of pieces of furniture across the United States each year.



Harden Furniture in the Modern Era

harden cherry sideboardLike many American companies, including Pennsylvania House, Harden faced challenges in the post 1990 era.

As trade opened up with Asia and Mexico, American production moved overseas where cheaper labor markets emerged.

By the 1990’s and 2000’s, Harden Furniture Company struggled to compete on price.

Greg Harden sited a “20 percent disadvantage” of labor costs in their production lines compared to overseas manufacturers in an early 2000 interview.

Cheap imported furniture distributed by large retailers started to win dominance in the US market. In fact, most domestic fine furniture makers could see no way to compete with big box stores.

And as manufacturing jobs left our shores, the middle class who once was able to purchase and enjoy solid wood furniture, found no way to afford such a luxury.

Essentially, as manufacturing jobs left, so too did a strong middle class.

Fine Furniture occupied an even smaller portion of the market during the 2008 crash and subsequent recession.

Of course as many people faced foreclosure, opulent dining room sets with a price tag of $20,000 or more seemed out of touch with the new economic realities hoisted on the American people.

Facing these challenges to profits and diminishing sales, Harden started to experience layoffs and tightening finances.



Harden Furniture Company Buy Out

During the mid 2000’s, Harden employed less than 300 people.

During these hard times, Harden also took a risk and started a product line made overseas. Their “Tapestry” line introduced a lesser priced imported line under the Harden umbrella. Unfortunately (or fortunately), this short-lived attempt to offer cheaper goods didn’t boost sales and was phased out.

The time came after a series of layoffs, restarts and attempts to salvage the company that Harden LLC was sold. After 174 years of business, Harden Furniture came under new ownership.



Who Owns Harden Furniture?

In January 2018, Big Shoulders Capital, LLC out of Illinois purchased Harden Furniture.

While the new company aimed to give new life to Harden, they simply could not bring back the manufacturing process in a serious way. Additionally, the new owners could not surmount company debts. After two failed attempts to resuscitate the company, Harden furniture under Big Shoulders Capital LLC sent their tools and remaining equipment to the auction block in October of 2018.

Big Shoulders Capital and its partners are now attempting to sell the “Harden” name and the remaining intellectual property under sealed bids. Bidding for the name, website and furniture plans are open until February 1, 2019.



Harden Furniture Styles

harden sofa Certainly, we remember Harden fondly for their incredible furniture. As a vintage store, we witness the beauty and craftsmanship of Harden Furniture collection nearly every day. In fact, it remains one of our favorite traditional furniture manufacturers.

But what differentiates Harden from other brands?

Besides the commitment to solid cherry, I think the Harden Furniture Collections designs were truly top notch.

Harden worked relentlessly at perfecting their cabinet, table and chair designs. Harden bedroom furniture, with beautiful poster beds and dressers, equaled Stickley furniture’s quality in my opinion. By their peak, the company sold over 750 different furniture pieces, and most, if not all, were adaptations of period pieces.

It goes without saying that Harden studied the masters.

Elegant block front chests echoed the work of 18th Century Rhode Island cabinetmaker, Samuel Goddard.

Gooseneck arms on an elegant dining chair mimic English classics, like the popular Queen Anne style.

harden furniture valueThe shell carvings and full bonnet on a Harden highboy highlight the beautiful work of early American masters.

And of course, the ornate overlays often found on a Harden secretary or curio cabinet echo the works of Thomas Chippendale.

Finally, there is always a certain elegance to the details on Harden furniture. We often see end tables and dining tables with cookie corners, rather than simple flat aprons. Solid brass swan neck hardware often decorates Harden drawers.

Another interesting Harden signature: Harden often did raised designs rather than inlay work. For instance, we have seen the belle-fleur motif popularized by George Hepplewhite make its way to Harden pieces. But instead of inlaying with a lighter wood, the Harden pieces show raised carvings on their solid cherry components.



Harden Furniture Finish

Of course, great wood, high level craftsmanship and beautiful designs are only part of the process. The stunning wood creations also have to go through final finishing.

As one of our vintage Harden catalog’s states,

“Harden’s beauty is much more than ‘skin deep.’.. Each piece of wood is beautifully matched; no natural defects are permitted, even on unexposed wood… Each drawer is meticulously sanded, sealed, lacquered and waxed so that even the most delicate silks and laces can be stored within, safely. Harden’s unique 18-step finishing process enhances the natural beauty of the wood and makes their furniture satin smooth to the touch.”

harden furniture catalogHeirloom furniture features a lengthy 18 step finishing process that protects the wood from blemishes and signs of wear. In fact, while regular polishing and careful use certainly helps, it is the finishing process that takes a piece of furniture from good to great!

Harden’s deep cherry finishes are both beautiful and phenomenally strong. With good care, Harden furniture can be passed down from generation to generation. Pre-owned Harden furniture will surely outlast its less expensive counterparts.



Harden Furniture in the White House

While most pieces in the White House are exact replicas, often made by Kittinger Furniture, Harden also has a place of honor in our nation’s capital.

Several of their fine black cherry pieces sit in the First Lady’s office. Harden also made 1000 chairs for the Capital’s Visitor Center and chairs for the House and Senate.

Most recently, Harden also was commissioned to make a 16 foot long conference table for the Theodore Roosevelt room in the White House in 2011. The special White House project took several special considerations. It had to fit the narrow room (built in 1902) and also be easy to disassemble for other types of receptions. Of course, obviously, it had to have presence and style to impress the President and Heads of State that would meet there. 🙂 Harden rose to the occasion and developed a stunning conference table made of their signature domestic cherry.



Harden Furniture Values

Vintage furniture can face fluctuations like any other market. Of course, both trends in interior design and in the general economy can affect buying decisions for the general population.

harden furniture price guideThat said, Harden held a steady grip on the high end furniture market for many years. There are many people who had extreme loyalty towards the brand, and thus the name recognition for Harden is rather high, and for good reason.

Currently, on the used market, Harden furniture may be facing a short term loss in value, much like most pre-owned fine furniture. You can purchase fine furniture made by Harden at wonderful places like Bohemians for pennies on the dollar. 🙂

Personally, I feel as though Harden Furniture may appreciate in value in coming years, especially as the legend of Harden grows. The sad truth of their recent closing may send loyal fans to seek out Harden furniture for sale. Right now, traditional fine vintage furniture really has no match in quality and Harden still stands as one of the premier companies.

True American Fine Furniture can be an incredible investment for savvy buyers. And personally, I see traditional designs taking center stage again in the design world once again. Fabrics and accessories can always be changed or modified, but when a room has fine Harden Furniture as its bones, you will immediately notice the elegant difference.



What to Look for in Harden Furniture?

As with any used furniture, you may have questions about what to look for in Harden Furniture for sale.

Of course, seeing the brand name in the drawers and undersides of chairs and tables provides reassurance of quality. In nearly all case pieces (dressers, sideboards, china cabinets) the name Harden is burned into the wood. In most cases, the year that the piece was made also accompanies the brand name, most often seen on the back of these pieces.

harden label

Paper tags and cloth labels were used on chairs and upholstered goods though. So if you don’t see the Harden tag on a sofa or chair, it is possible it went missing or someone removed it. Then, without a bill of receipt or other evidence, it becomes hard to attribute the piece to Harden unless you have a very trained eye!

With all this in mind, the evidence of the Harden name is still only half the battle. The condition of the Harden piece speaks volumes.

While most Harden furniture comes from fine homes and is well kept, there are instances when Harden furniture suffers from bad storage, over use, or harmful polishes.

We have seen solid cherry dining tables cup and warp when they were improperly stored in very cold or humid places. Storage units without temperature control can do quite a bit of harm to beautiful cherry furniture. You may see splits on the sides of china cabinets or warped china cabinet doors.

harden furniture label

Also, many people do not realize that inexpensive furniture polishes can do harm to the hand-rubbed finishes of Harden pieces. So be careful if you see a waxy or hazy finish on Harden. This may signal a little overzealous use of the aerosol cans! (As a side note, we recommend a particular Harden furniture polish! Where to buy Harden Furniture Polish?)

Finally, chair joints often see the most use, so be weary of loose joints in dining chairs. While they can be repaired, dining chairs need lots of clamps and lots of patience.



Harden Furniture Company

While sadly not in business anymore, thousands of people still have the opportunity to enjoy Harden Furniture in their homes. The beautiful dining, living room and bedroom furniture by Harden will remain an excellent choice for modern homes.

pre-owned Harden Furniture

As we see Harden close for good, I feel lucky and honored to have sold some incredible Harden pieces over the years.

Indeed, I hope to find more of these vintage Harden beds, Harden dressers, Harden sofas and Harden dining room furniture in the future. Mature clients recognize the Harden name for its quality and craftsmanship, while younger clients immediately recognize the beauty and style.

I sincerely hope you consider vintage Harden Furniture for your home. And if you have inherited some Harden Furniture pieces, I do hope you treasure them for years to come!

I can only guess that Harden will become more beloved as years go by, and no new company can come close to replacing them in craftsmanship, quality or beauty.

Thank you for reading and for inviting us into your traditional home!

Written by Rachel LaBoheme



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122 thoughts on “What Happened to Harden Furniture? The Sad Truth about one of America’s Best Furniture Companies!

  1. I loved your article, but was so sad to read that Harden Furniture Company is no longer in business. Mh mom passed away last September and I just inherited her Harden dining room table, chairs, hutch, and server. I have always loved it and am delighted that it’s now in my house. For some reason, we can’t find the 2nd leaf for the table. Do you think it’s possible to find one somewhere? His might I go about finding one?

    Also, what are your thoughts about Milsek furniture polish?

  2. I have a harden sleight bed. Live in Baltimore. I know Harden used to have a contract with a professional to deal with scratches and dings. Is there anyone still like that in the Baltimore area?

    1. Not that we know of, if it is a light scratch try “howards-restore-a-finish” its available at lowes and home depot in the paint department, wipes on like old english but works fantastic.

  3. Is there any chance you could give me some guidance on how to disassemble my Harden Sleigh Bed? There are bolts holding the side rails to the head and foot boards that I’m just not sure how to undo. Thanks.

    1. Im thinking you have what i call a bolt thru bed, You will need a socket the right size and unscrew the rail from behind the headboard and do the same for the footboard. Sometimes even after unscrewing the bolt you will have to rock the headboard a bit to get it to seperate from the side rails.

  4. I am looking for appropriate bed slats for my Harden poster/canopy queen size bed frame.
    Where would you recommend I look for suitable slats to fit?

    1. Hi Sallie, measure the distance between your side rails and go to lowes or home depot, they will cut a nice piece of poplar or oak for you. The cost of wood & lumber at the moment is quite high though expect close to $20 per slat.

  5. I purchased the “Washington Irving” desk in the 80’s. Is this desk still being made by anyone? How rare do you think it is? It is an absolutely beautiful desk!

    1. Hi Chris, Yes the Washington Irving Harden Desks were very nice. They seem to be available readily online so probably not to rare. I am not aware of anyone that really makes anything nice these days but small custom cabinet shops.

    2. I also have a Washington Irving Desk that I I got for my 21st birthday in 1981. I still use it today; in fact, I’m sitting at it right now. I remember hearing that less than a 100 of these Desks were made.

      Paul

  6. I have inherited a Harden four poster bed. Each end of the side rail is routed out several inches deep and holds a piece of U-shaped hardware that then fits onto a piece of hardware mounted to the surface of leg of the head/footboard. One of those pieces inside one side rail is missing. Do you have any idea where I might find that piece of hardware? This does not appear to be a ‘standard’ bedframe piece. Thanks.

    1. Hi Barbara, Im not familiar with the piece from your description but i would try Tru Value hardware stores. They actually have quite a large selection of u shape type hardware, maybe one would fit for you. I doubt Harden made there own bed hardware so it may be a piece readily available. In other words they adapted clamps that were intended for something else and worked well for there bed rails. Hope that helps. Other wise you may have to replace the hole bracket with something from any furniture parts / bed parts website that would work.

  7. Hi, I have a Harden rocking chair that I am recovering and found this tag that has:
    The Frank S. Harding Co.
    McConnellsville, N.Y.
    Lockwood Bros
    No. 731R. Covering D430 ML Comb
    The chair has been in my family for over 100 years and I was wondering if you have any information regarding this piece of furniture.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Karen, The tag most likely is reference to the store that was selling the rocker probably as a local furniture store. It may also be an upholsterer tags but I do believe Harden did its own work so I would guess the store theory is probably correct. The numbers are the style of chair , finish or stain number and the inventory number for the material used. Harden was famous for making there clients matching pieces of furniture that they had bought in the future. Any connection to the “Harding family tree” I wouldnt be aware of. Enjoy! and pick out a great looking fabric!

  8. I have a beautiful 40 year old Harden desk with a drawer lock. Unfortunately the key has been misplaced. The key number is 164. Would you know who the supplier is?

    1. Hello Olga, while I can not say with 100% certainty I have had great luck with sets of standard keys from houseofantiquehardware.com search “Ring of 10 Unique Barrel Keys For Cabinet & Furniture Locks” the cost is about $25, one of the keys should work for you as many locks are actually quite simple.

  9. We purchased a Harden Four Pencil Post king size bed in early 2001 for our newly constructed home and it’s one of our most prized possessions. My wife’s father, was a friend of Frank Harden and she and her father were treated to cruise on Mr. Harden’s yacht. About two years ago, we saw a console table at a consignment shop. I opened the drawer and there was the Harden (“branded”) name. Sold and away we went.
    Terrible to American brand names disappear.

    1. Very nice you got to ride on the yacht. We agree it is a shame that these wonderful companies are gone, great great pieces of furniture. We look for Harden all the time, great classy and timeless look.

    2. Who was your wife’s father? Frank Harden was my father, and I grew up in McConnellsville next to Harden Furniture

  10. Love our Hardon Furniture. Especially love the Secretary that we waited months to get. Never a problem with any of it. will take your suggestion and use the Original Bees wax polish . So sorry they are gone.

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