Most of you have probably never heard of this type furniture, yet the same style
furniture is back in fashion today, only by another name. Today we know it as
willowwood furniture. So, how did it get the name “Gypsy Furniture?”
During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were groups of gypsies traveling about
the country by wagon and they had two legitimate means of making a living. One way
was fortune telling and the other was furniture making. Of course there were certain
shenanigans going on behind the scenes where certain items of personal property
or livestock would disappear.
While traveling they would stop by a creek or river where there were a lot of willow
trees and spend several days up to several weeks camped there while making furniture
from the willow limbs. Sometimes their stay would be cut short if one of them got
cought stealing from one of the nearby farms and the farmer chased them off.
The main items of furniture that they made were arm chairs and settees. These were
made with 3/8 to 1/2 inch willow limbs bent to the desired shape and the earlier ones
were tied in place with rawhide strips while the later ones used small nails. Larger
limbs were used for the legs and cross members for the seats.
This type furniture was lightweight and you could stack a lot of it on a wagon. When
they got all made that they could stack on their wagons they then started out across
country again peddling the furniture door to door.
I remember my aunt having some of this furniture on the front porch of the old ranch
house. She had several chairs and a settee. With a cushion in the seat they were
fairly comfortable to sit in. These were weather resistant and lasted many years
The next time you are in the local garden center and spot some of the willowwood
furniture, just remember that at one time it was called “Gypsy Furniture.”
Some willow-wood , or gypsy, furniture on display at
Cherokee Saddlery & Trading Co., Cherokee, Texas.
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