Craftspeople and Collaborators

Photograph from 1923 of two white men, in long aprons, polishing large pieces of furniture.
These two men polishing furniture worked at one of the many furniture companies in Grand Rapids, Michigan—nicknamed “Furniture City"—in the first half of the 20th century. “Men Finish and Polish Furniture,” Widdicomb Furniture Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1923. Furniture Industry Archives, Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Who crafted the furniture in the Wormser Bedroom?
If you guessed Joseph Urban, you’d be wrong.

Throughout his career, Urban relied upon teams of skilled workers and manufacturers to bring his designs to life. One of his collaborators, Mallin Furniture Company, likely produced the bed, nightstand, desk and chair, dressing table and chair, daybed, and hassocks in Elaine Wormser’s bedroom.

The company’s president, Morris C. Mallin (1888-1953), was born to a Jewish family in Warsaw, Poland, and arrived in New York City at the age of 15. As a teenager, Mallin juggled his factory job as a woodcarver with high school classes at night. His courses in architecture and design paid off in 1921, when Mallin established his own furniture company.

Black and white photo of an interior with a modern-looking armchair, couch, and small table.
Mallin Furniture Company manufactured Winold Reiss’s furniture designs for his display at the American Designers’ Gallery. Living room designed by Winold Reiss for 1929 exhibition of American Designers’ Gallery, Inc. Twentieth-Century Decorative Arts Collection, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, The Art Institute of Chicago.

Unlike the ready-made, anachronistic styles churned out by large furniture manufacturers, Mallin’s company focused on expensive and often unconventional made-to-order pieces. By 1929, the year Elaine’s bedroom was commissioned, the company was fabricating pieces for theatre producers and prominent modernist designers like Urban and Winold Reiss.