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From One ‘Factory Man’ To Another

August 27, 2014
Factory Man

“John D. Bassett III, center, with part of the company team that took on China.” Photo: David Hungate

The New York Times wrote a beautiful article on Factory Man, a new book on the Bassett legacy and the dedication John D. Bassett III has to American made furniture.

Beth Macy wrote a book each one of us in the American furniture manufacturing industry would love to see be written. Especially those in American furniture brands steeped in family tradition like ours. And she did it. Factory Man is a great story of the Bassett Furniture legacy, and one Bassett in particular, John D. Bassett III, who has been determined, like so many of us, to keep furniture made here – in America. The book is called Factory Man, and rightfully so. Mimi Swartz, executive editor at Texas Monthly wrote a great article about it for The New York Times. Excerpts of that article are found below…

It is impossible to read Beth Macy’s “Factory Man” without casting the inevitable movie version to come. Picture an updated “Norma Rae” in which the hero isn’t an oppressed factory worker but a desperate factory owner battling scheming relatives, callous Wall Street bankers and ruthless Chinese competitors — all to save his workers’ jobs and his family’s bricks-and-mortar legacy, a furniture business in a speck of a town in south central Virginia…

The first half of the book is given over to Bassett history in great detail. John D. Bassett Sr. founded the business in 1902, but the family was illustrious long before then. Mr. J.D., as his employees knew him, was a descendant of a Revolutionary War captain to whom King George III had deeded 791 acres of Virginia farmland in 1773. But the imaginative, ambitious Bassett and his equally driven wife — that would be Miss Pokey — set up a small store and inn, and eventually made themselves indispensable in the town that soon carried the family name. Then, in a move that would serve both as the key to their success and as ironic portent, the couple cased a Michigan furniture factory and figured that they could outdo the Grand Rapids craftsmen instead of shipping them all their good Virginia walnut, oak, hickory and more. Bassett workers became experts at copying and mass-producing furniture; even if the product wasn’t especially finely made, it was good enough to satisfy a swelling middle class. Continue Reading…