Jan 23, 2019 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Mid-century is a look that never seems to go out of style. The internet and main streets alike are littered with companies eager to recreate the sleek elegance of the 1940s through 1960s. The combination of fine craftsmanship, crisp lines, and quality materials makes every consumer’s mouth water. But there’s something extra-special about finding a piece actually made during this golden age of interior design. These authentic pieces make every collector’s mouth water and, while Lane is one of the first names that pop to mind, today I’d like to introduce you to a brand from Canada – Knechtel Furniture.
Knechtel opened its doors 43 years before Edward Hudson Lane started on his Altavista adventures. The year was 1864 and an entrepreneur by the name of Daniel Knechtel ventured to Western Ontario. Daniel, the second of thirteen children born to German immigrants, could always be found working with his hands. A school dropout by age ten, he went on to join a carpentry group at the ripe age of eighteen. He helped build barns and homes – large-scale structures. The love of furniture was sparked when he interned with a furniture maker named Becker. While he didn’t intern for long, the experience inspired him to start his own company.
With only the tools in his bag and a good pair of walking shoes he headed out. His mission: make furniture for the burgeoning settler population. (A pretty clever business plan when you think of it – after all, people trekking cross-country are known for traveling light!) The two day journey must have been draining, but it fueled him to be even more successful once he arrived in town. That drive served him well, especially during those first few years. Initially partnering with his brother, the duo soon made a name for themselves both locally and regionally. Within ten years, their diverse product offerings allowed Daniel to expand operations. Knechtel was soon operating out of a proper factory and employing about 30 local craftspeople.
Ever wondered about the connection between Lane & Knechtel? One of our amazing readers, Ted, found this helpful tidbit of info! In brief, Lane Furniture was indeed made in Canada during the early 1950’s (perhaps earlier) and was made specifically in Hanover, Ontario which was known for being the “furniture town” in Canada primarily because they had the most furniture manufacturing companies there. One of which was the well known, Daniel Knechtel, who started a furniture manufacturing company that became one of the largest in Ontario. Knechtel indeed did have the exclusive rights to produce and manufacture the Lane furniture name keeping the Lane name on it but any issues, specifically with the Lane famous cedar chest, such as a lost key, one would be advise to write in and send .25 cents in cash and not stamps to Knechtel Furniture Ltd. to obtain a new key. They even had the very same $500 Gauranty (as it was written then) Against Moth Damage Insurance Certificate. It was printed in the USA but shipped over to Hanover, Ontario in order to help lower and offset the cost toward the whole process. Of course, the $500 would be in Canadian Funds.
The factory was so deeply connected to the community that in 1900, after a fire destroyed their new facilities, the town pitched in money to help the rebuilding effort. This generosity was rewarded multiple times over as the company executives went on to become prominent philanthropists. This partnership of town and company was mutually beneficial for generations.
Daniel’s tenure was known for its ambitious trajectory. In a way, I think of the company’s early days as Ontario’s answer to Sears. You see, in addition to selling furniture, for a short while they offered groceries and even funeral services. Talk about your one-stop shop! All of this energetic expansion served the company well as their manufacturing team kept growing. Daniel passed away in 1936 and the Knechtel Furniture legacy passed on to his son. Sadly, Jacob’s time with the company was limited to two years before he also passed away. Daniel’s grandson, Kent, then assumed leadership.
At its zenith, the company had these subsidiaries: Knechtels Limited, the Knechtel Kitchen Kabinet Ltd., the Knechtels Novelty Plant and Peppier Bros. Ltd. Much like Lane, Knechtel creations are known for their craftsmanship and slick styling. Below you’ll find a sampling of logos/markings to look for (courtesy of Pinterest). Sadly, the company shuttered its doors in 1983. But that isn’t where the story ends – the location of the original plant is now home to a beautiful park dedicated to Daniel’s memory & pieces from any of the Knechtel lines remain a treasure for collectors both in Canada and beyond!