Turning Point: the 1989 Mission Collection Re-issue

Turning Point: the 1989 Mission Collection Re-issue

After Alfred and Aminy Audi bought L. & J.G. Stickley 50 years ago, early efforts were all about keeping the brand afloat while working to restore its reputation and productivity. They focused on what the company had done so successfully under Leopold Stickley for many decades: Colonial Revival furniture of the highest quality. Their work paid off, and in time the business was once again on a firm footing. But renewed attention to antique Stickley Mission furniture had been bubbling up across the country, and this bit of symmetry was not lost on the Audis.

Arts and Crafts resurfaces

Because Stickley furniture was so well built, original pieces survived in fine condition long after the style’s initial popularity waned. Interest in the American Arts and Crafts movement, and in these Mission antiques, was revived by an exhibition curated by Robert Judson Clark at Princeton University in 1972. This interest grew over the next several years, culminating in a 1988 Christie’s auction that saw Barbra Streisand pay a record $363,000 for a Gustav Stickley sideboard.

The Audis read these signs of renewed interest in their brand’s legacy style, and they knew they had the means to bring Mission to life again. Studying old records, catalogs, and borrowed antiques, Alfred Audi and designer William DeBlaay were able to recreate designs for more than 30 original Stickley pieces; manufacturing began, and the company reissued the Mission Oak Collection in April 1989.


The renaissance of Mission Oak

The 1989 Mission Oak Collection catalog is the story of old made new again. Piece after piece shows the same pure lines and fine materials that could be traced back to Gustav and Leopold. The catalog also reveals the construction techniques that were preserved along with the designs, giving the reissued furniture the same durability and longevity.


To distinguish the reissued pieces from turn-of-the-century antiques, clear identifiers and subtle variations were added, including side-hung, center-guided drawers and blind dovetailed cross rails. Every piece was signed and dated by a proud craftsperson, and the current Stickley logo was burned in alongside the 1917 co-joined shop mark, ensuring that no reissue would be mistaken for the original (all practices that continue to this day). Mission was back, and now it was available to homeowners who craved the Arts and Crafts style but couldn’t afford high-priced antiques. As the Audis predicted, it received an enthusiastic reception.

Spreading the word

The media was quick to recognize what was happening in Central New York. The interior-design magazine Metropolitan Home heralded this “Revival of the Fittest,” while a New York Times piece in May 1989, titled “It’s Brand-New, but It’s Authentically Stickley,” described the painstaking process of bringing Gustav and Leopold’s creations back to life. And Forbes produced a detailed profile under the title “Rescuing a Proud Name”; in an editorial introduction, editor James W. Michaels stated, “Craftsmanship is not entirely dead in America—as entrepreneurs like the Audis prove.”

Growing with the times

This time, Mission did not fade away again after a brief revival. The company heeded the lessons of Leopold, who realized early that a brand could not stay static and thrive. As its first major update, Stickley issued the Mission Cherry Collection in 1991, a smart decision given the wood’s popularity and the company’s reputation for producing fine cherry furniture throughout the 20th century. It also continued to add Mission pieces, both reissues and adaptations of designs influenced by Harvey Ellis and others. And in 2000, Stickley launched its annual Collector Edition: limited-edition Mission pieces inspired by Stickley originals and designed with an eye to versatility and function in today’s homes. It’s a philosophy that would certainly win the Stickley brothers’ stamp of approval.

Adapted from “The Many Lives of Mission,” Inside Stickley blog, June 2021.

Additional sources:

Mrs. Aminy Audi, CEO and Chair of the Board

Amanda Clifford, Director, The Stickley Museum

Daniels, Mary. “Arts and Crafts Mania.” Chicago Tribune, April 30, 1989.

Hirst, Arlene. “Revival of the Fittest.” Metropolitan Home, July 1989.

Machan, Dyan. “Rescuing a Proud Name.” Forbes, February 5, 1990.

Michaels, James W. “Making Craftsmanship Pay.” Forbes, February 5, 1990.

Quigley, Kathleen. “It’s Brand-New, but It’s Authentically Stickley.” New York Times, May 18, 1989.