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John Danner
Biographical Facts

In the latter 19th century, the tastes of the American public were moving away from the constraints of the fussy fragility of Victorian furnishings. There was an emphasis on strong, functional, unbreakable furniture. The industrial revolution instigated new lines of furniture every six months, which was something never before seen in furniture production. The designs were based in strength and ingenuity, a combination people were ready to appreciate and use in daily life. One of the men at the forefront of this movement was John Danner.   

John Danner

This man from Canton, Ohio invented what he called "a pivot and post design" in 1876.   What Mr. Danner had created was a revolving bookcase.   The ingenuity of his work resided in the economy of space it provided. 32 volumes of the American Cyclopedia could be stored in a compact space, and readily available for perusal at the touch of a finger.  

The extraordinary success of Danner's invention had many factors going into it.   First of all, education and reading were no longer for the upper class alone.   Books became more common, and were being read and collected.

Therressa Danner

Also, in the 1880's the industrial revolution was changing the look of every middle class household across the entire nation.   Thanks in a large part to the mail-order catalog and advancement in rail transportation, not only large cities but also remote towns across the vast United States would have access to manufactured items.   John Danner's bookcase appeared in the 1894 Montgomery Ward's catalog, which boosted an already flourishing business.   His growing production needs demanded that he build a larger, more accommodating factory on the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad line.

In 1878 John exhibited his bookcases at the Paris International Exhibition and won a gold medal.   This testimony to the integrity and beauty of his design was further underlined when he kept his company afloat in the panic of 1893 with orders from Czarist Russia.  

The John Danner Manufacturing Company was known for honorable workmanship and affordability. The woods were oak, black walnut, western ash, and Philippine mahogany.   Viewed as a progressive businessman, Danner was credited with drawing a large trade and business to the city of Canton.   He kept his business in the town that saw his birth, in 1823.

His wife Therressa, stood by him throughout and showed her mettle as a business woman by managing seven children.   A daughter and granddaughter of war heroes, Miss Therressa A. Millard married a 24-year old John Danner when she was just 19.   

His factory burnt down in 1903. In just three hours, the worker's personal tools, along with any trace of working material was gone.   The heat of the flames had been so intense that the fireman's hoses melted in the attempt to alleviate the damage.   Undaunted, the 80 year old entrepreneur erected a new, brick building on the charred foundation.   This time a second story was added, and the company employed one hundred and seventy five to two hundred men. He presided over the company for another 13 years, and when he was 93 years old liquidated the business.

Original Danner advertisement, circa 1880's.

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