We’re often asked how to tell if a particular piece of furniture is a genuine Heywood-Wakefield product. Here’s some information we hope will be useful.
Why Many Vintage Items Have No Label
The Heywood-Wakefield Company didn’t start using its famous eagle logo until 1949, about 14 years after introducing its Streamline Modern designs in late 1935. Originally called Streamline Maple, these early pieces were labeled with one of several styles of paper tag. The tags were generally affixed to the back or underside (in the case of tables) of the furniture.
Not surprisingly, these paper tags often didn’t survive years—let alone six or seven decades—of use and moving. This has left a lot of the most classic, coveted vintage Heywood-Wakefield pieces without a label for easy identification. However, there are clues that can help determine if what you have is a genuine Heywood-Wakefield item.
The Wood and Finish
This furniture was first known as Streamline Maple because that was the original wood used, along with birch, which is very similar. Most pieces were shown in either Amber or Bleached finish, so if a piece has either of these words stenciled on the back or underside, there’s a good chance it’s an early Heywood-Wakefield. In 1937, Streamline Maple became Streamline Modern; maple was still used for some furniture, but by 1940, Heywood-Wakefield switched exclusively to birch. If you can identify types of wood by its color and grain pattern, this is another clue.
The Screw Clue
Around this same time, Heywood-Wakefield began using Phillips-head screws almost exclusively. If you find pieces with slotted screws, unless they’re very old and have some other tell-tale signs suggesting they’re Heywood-Wakefield, they’re probably not. Heywood-Wakefield’s Phillips screws have a distinctive look to them, so if you have another piece of Heywood-Wakefield furniture, look at one of its screws to familiarize yourself with the look.
Once the eagle logo was introduced in 1949, it was typically stamped into the top left-hand drawer of case pieces, on the underside of tables, or on the bottom stretcher of bed headboards. This makes most later Heywood-Wakefield easy to identify.
Also, the majority of Heywood-Wakefield pieces had an inspection or shipping date stamped on the back in small numbers, usually no more than an inch long. The formatting was like this: June 21, 1955.
The company never used veneer and used very little Formica, though there are some table styles with Formica tops. Heywood-Wakefield had no plastic knobs except on very early pieces, which might have “Amber” or “Bleached” stamped on. Of course, over the years, some people replaced original wooden Heywood-Wakefield drawer-pulls with plastic pulls, so check for other clues, such as the screws.
The Drawers on Case Pieces
On many Heywood-Wakefield case pieces, there are pencil marks numbering the drawers. If you find, say, an eight-drawer dresser with a penciled number on the bottom of the drawer (or sometimes the back), with a dash followed by a single number from 1 to 8, that’s likely a Heywood-Wakefield. An example would be the number 28-2. This indicates the second drawer of an M 328 W Desk Bookcase.
The drawers of earlier Heywood-Wakefield case goods were separated by plywood dust barriers. These were replaced by Masonite barriers sometime in the 1960s. The drawer-glides were “dog-eared” solid wood strips attached at both ends with a small flat-head Phillips screw. The plywood or Masonite backs of cabinets were attached with small, slightly round-head brads (small nails) and were typically rounded off on the top left and right corners.
Get an Expert’s Take
Hopefully, you can use some of these clues to identify a vintage Heywood-Wakefield piece. If you need additional assistance, the best source is an antiques or vintage furniture dealer. These experts are excellent resources, and if you approach one who can’t help, they should be able to direct you to another local professional who can.
Enjoy your amazing vintage furniture!
Feature Image Credit: Rubylane