Gunlocke Chairs

1978 Gunlocke Chair with beautiful solid wood construction

Here’s a beautiful example of a 1978 Gunlocke chair we recently acquired – the wood is solid walnut and the upholstery is in good shape.

Here’s a bit of history on the company:

William Henry Gunlocke entered the chair business in Binghamton in 1888 as a wood finisher and rose to the position of factory superintendent. He and four other men came to the village of Wayland in western New York in 1902 in response to a newspaper advertisement placed by the civic fathers seeking to fill a vacant factory building. The W.H. Gunlocke Chair Co. began production there with less than a dozen employees.

Gunlocke’s reputation for quality designs and craftsmanship was due in part to its extensive use of steambending. By 1912 an entire department had been devoted to this time-honored but exacting process, which had been abandoned by many manufacturers in favor of less costly bandsawing. Gunlocke’s practice was to air-dry wood for six months to one year before using it. This process, plus kiln drying, was essential to producing the company’s durable furniture, including seating made to last for decades.

Although the company’s furniture was initially designed, manufactured, and merchandised primarily for household applications, it found a growing market in business settings and began to specialize in furniture for business and government offices, as well as for the nation’s schools. Woodrow Wilson became the first of a long line of presidents to use one of its chairs.

In 1972, Gunlocke added a full line of high-quality library furniture. In 1973 it had showrooms in Los Angeles, New York City, and Dallas, as well as Chicago. Its product line in 1974, aside from seating, desks, credenzas, and library furniture, included conference and side tables. These products were made primarily from solid walnut, maple, and white oak, as well as veneers of these woods. In 1977 Gunlocke introduced a new desk series and three chair styles by leading designers.

By | 2017-06-03T13:32:12+00:00 March 28th, 2010|design & inspiration|6 Comments

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  1. Deirdre Thompson April 21, 2013 at 4:28 am

    Hello Carla,
    I just made a purchase of 2 W. H. Gunlocke walnut chairs No. 21-C, 1965 – one in crimson and the other in avocado. I didn’t know what they were or who made them, but they caught my eye immediately and I paid $5 for each of them. The wood is in great condition and made only need waxing. The upholstery is in okay condition, but the seating cushion feels a bit lumpy. My plan was to re-upholster them both. But now that I know that they are a vintage collectable,
    I wandered if it would be a mistake.

    What would you recommended?

  2. Carla April 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Hello Deirdre,
    Nice find! $5 is a great deal for these chairs. Do you plan to keep them for yourself and use them daily, or try too sell them? A collector would no doubt place a greater value on original materials. However, if you’re planning to keep them for yourself and use them every day, the upholstery will eventually deteriorate to the point where they will need reupholstering anyway – so I would say go ahead & have them redone complete with new seat padding that maintains the look & integrity of the original (in a fabric & color combination that you love), which a skilled upholsterer will be able to accomplish easily. It is rare to find upholstery that lasts well over 50 years of use. Furniture is meant to be used and enjoyed, and these chairs are built to last (and super comfortable too) – Enjoy!


  3. Cathy October 6, 2013 at 7:03 am

    I too purchased a WH Gunlocke chair for $5 at a garage sale. I didn’t know anything about the chair except that I liked the look. Of course, when I saw the yellowed tag on the bottom of the chair my curiosity led me to the internet. Although I’ve seen similar chairs, I’ve yet to find one just like the one I have. I am interested in selling it, but don’t know where to begin with a price. Can you point me in the right direction? It’s an arm chair with a faux leather, burgundy colored back, but the seat is wood, which appears to be maple, as the wood is lighter. .The chair is in very good condition only needing to perhaps be lightly sanded and a new topcoat of sealer/varnish. The leg caps are brass (colored) and are intact. All of the seams are tight and the faux leather is flawless. Can someone point me in the right direction? I can email photos if need be.
    Thanks in advance-

  4. Carla Pyle December 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Hi Cathy,
    Without seeing a photo of the chair, it’s hard to make a judgement on pricing, but it sounds like it’s in very good condition. I sold a pair of chairs like the one pictured in this post for $165 each a few years ago. Since yours is so unique, it might be worth a bit more, though your geographical location will play a part in how much someone will pay. You might try putting an ad on your local craigslist and see what happens.

    Thanks for your question, and good luck!

  5. Dominique December 8, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Me and my aunt have about 12 or so chairs what are they worth if I was willing to sell them. They are in pretty good shape

  6. Carla January 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    Hi Dominique,

    Since furniture values change over time, I would recommend doing a search for 1978 Gunlocke chair on eBay or Etsy to try to find the current going rate for them. Also see the other comments on this post for more insight. Thanks for your question!

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