Cool Things - Abernathy Brothers Furniture
One of the Kansas' earliest and most successful businesses was the furniture company established in 1856 by James Abernathy and siblings William and John. Abernathy Brothers Furniture of Leavenworth became a highly visible regional business that lasted nearly a century.
James Abernathy was the most prominent of the three brothers, apparently made successful by personal ambition and (like others of his generation) service in the Civil War. Born in 1833 in Warren County, Ohio, he settled in Leavenworth in 1856. James and brother William opened a retail furniture business in the thriving city on the Kansas side of the Missouri River.
During the Civil War, James became captain of a company of the Eighth Kansas Volunteer Infantry, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. William expanded the business during the war, operating a wholesale and retail furniture store in Kansas City. James took control of William's interests when the latter died in 1869. Brother John also became a partner, although the dates of his involvement are unclear.
James clearly dominated the business. In addition to the furniture operation, he was involved in banking and insurance, served as mayor of Leavenworth, and was on the committee to place Kansas monuments on Civil War battlefields at Chattanooga and Chickamauga. He died in Leavenworth in 1902.
Abernathy Brothers continued to operate its plants at Leavenworth into the 1940s, and in the West Bottoms of Kansas City into the early 1950s. Buildings from both plants still stand today. The furniture manufactured by the Abernathy plants is of good quality and serviceable, although not particularly innovative.
The Kansas Museum of History collections include a few pieces of Abernathy furniture:
- Oak sofa bed in the Mission style (top, right). View the mattress and the patent plate. Purchased by the Cinzell family of McLouth in 1918, and later used in the offices of Jay Cross Masonry, also of McLouth, before being donated in 1984.
- Maple crib that held the infant daughter of Dr. F.N. and Edna Stephens of Parsons in 1937. Virginia Stephens Peak later donated her childhood crib to the museum.
- Office chair dating from the early 20th century. Originally purchased by the LaRosh family and later used by LaVern Noyes in his insurance office, both locations in Osborne County. Donated by LaVern's grandson, Brad Noyes.
Entry: Cool Things - Abernathy Brothers Furniture
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: January 2011
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.