Hickory – Redhawk Publications is pleased to announce the book release of “Well Crafted: The History of Furniture Manufacturing in Western North Carolina.” Written by Richard Eller, professor of history at Catawba Valley Community College, the book not only gives the historical rise, fall, and rise again, of furniture in Western North Carolina, but also provides personal accounts with an array of industry leaders and crafters alike that helped create this unique legacy.
For the last 150 years, furniture has been the most important economic force in western North Carolina. Well Crafted: The History of Furniture Manufacturing in Western North Carolina follows what became an industrial powerhouse from its workshop days to mammoth factories. “Countless thousands did their part to help build our furniture industry,” said Eller about the book. “Commerce generated from their efforts put much food on the table for families in the foothills, as well as paying many mortgages and sending many kids to college, including me.”
Eller began his research in the 1990s as his thesis while attending graduate school in History at UNC-Charlotte. “When I began, I thought it would be a rise-and-fall story since offshoring looked like the end of the once great industry. Jobs were going elsewhere, and factories were shutting down,” he remembered. “I shelved the story for a while and went on to other historical topics like Piedmont Airlines, the Miracle of Hickory, and the Untouchables, but I kept an eye on the health of furniture making.”
In 2018, Eller was leading a book club for the Historical Association of Catawba County when one of the participants, the owner of Hickory Furniture Mart, Leroy Lail, found out about Eller’s previous research and encouraged him to pursue the subject. The new book features an introduction by Lail. “For over 60 years, Leroy has been a leader in the industry. If he thought a history of western NC furniture was a good idea, I had to go with it,” said Eller about the writing of Well Crafted. “He suggested the title.”
From there, Lail proved an invaluable resource, connecting the author with numerous folks that provided critical insights into the furniture industry. Among them was the late Glenn Hunsucker, who rose from hourly worker to president of Prestige Furniture. “There are many stories like that in the book,” revealed Eller. “Both men and women spent their entire lives in those factories, contributing their labor to a product that put North Carolina at the forefront.”
“Well Crafted” focuses specifically on the western end of the state’s industry. As William Stevens noted in a 1968 biography of his father-in-law J.E. Broyhill, furniture manufacturing in North Carolina resembles a figure 8 on its side, with the convergence point in Statesville. To the east are the High Point-centered companies, while in the west, Hickory, Morganton, Marion, Lincolnton, and Lenoir form the western circle. “This book tells the story of the western end,” says Eller.
The first book launch for the release of “Well Crafted” will be held at Patrick Beaver Memorial Library on Monday, April 24th at 6pm. At the event, Eller will discuss his research, some of the many memorable persons he chronicles, and sign books.
To purchase the book, visit: https://tinyurl.com/RichardEllerWellCrafted
Redhawk Publications is an artistic initiative of the Catawba Valley Community College, publishing written works of interest for the local community, North Carolina, and the entire United States. Established in 2017, Redhawk Publications offers over 100 titles to date and is one of only three community colleges nationwide with a publishing press. For additional information on Redhawk Publications, visit our website at https://redhawkpublications.com, or contact Patty Thompson at [email protected].