W. & J. Sloane

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W. & J. Sloane advertisement from September 1902.
The western side of the original W. & J. Sloane building, at 19th and Broadway.

W. & J. Sloane was a furniture and rug store in New York City that catered to the wealthy.

History[edit]

The company was founded as a rug importer and seller on March 2, 1843, by William Sloane who had just emigrated from Kilmarnock, Scotland, a town famous for weaving fine carpets and rugs. In 1852 his younger brother John W. Sloane joined the firm, when it was renamed W. & J. Sloane. It was the first company to import oriental carpets into the United States. It soon expanded to include furniture and other home furnishings, and quickly became the choice of the elite in New York. In the late 19th century the company added an antiques department, started producing furniture, and became the first home furnishings store in the country, billing itself as "W. & J. Sloane Interior Decorators and Home Furnishers." Its flagship store was originally located at Broadway and 19th Street, in "Ladies' Mile", relocating later to 414 Fifth Avenue at 38th Street, former flagship of Franklin Simon & Co.

In 1891, W. & J. Sloane incorporated and set the national decorating taste of the United States, and over the next sixty years decorated the homes of the most prominent people in the country, including the Breakers and the White House, created Hollywood movie sets, and even designed and decorated interiors of automobiles. It opened a branch in San Francisco, California originally to furnish pavilions at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition (it also furnished the model homes at the 1939 New York World's Fair). It later acquired other upscale firms such as the California Furniture Company, and in 1925 a subsidiary, the Company of Master Craftsmen was founded by William Sloane Coffin, Sr. (the father of Rev. William Sloane Coffin) to create colonial revival furniture. During World War II the company worked with the Newport News Company and the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company on shipbuilding contracts for the United States Navy fitting out the interiors of liberty ships under the direction of John Sloane Griswold. In 1955, after a three-year internal struggle, control of the firm left the hands of a direct descendant of the Sloanes when Benjamin Coates, 37, was elected president. This meant the ouster of president W.E.S. Griswold, Jr. and chairman of the board John D. Sloane, both grandsons of the founders. Coates was a financier who married John D. Sloane's daughter in 1944 and served on the board. Along with the City Stores Company syndicate, he bought up 70% of the stock to win control and become head of the firm. After the store left family hands, it over-expanded and lowered the price and quality of its goods. It was then acquired by Hollywood-based RB Furniture. The chain filed for bankruptcy on September 11, 1985.

The company generated considerable wealth for the direct descendants of William and John Sloane, who include in addition to Rev. Coffin, diplomat Cyrus Vance, attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., musician John P. Hammond, musical producer John H. Hammond, and philanthropist Emily Thorn Vanderbilt Sloane. It also brought the Sloane family into prominence in New York City, where they intermarried with the Whitneys, the Vanderbilts, and the Pynes. Employees who worked for the firm include the American cooking icon Julia Child (then Julia McWilliams), whose first job out of Smith College in October 1935 was Assistant to the New York Advertising Manager, A. W. Forester. Other notables include the Bevelacqua brothers: Salvatore and Aurelio, who designed under the Sloane banner before their respective success in furniture design.

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