The Ikea of Yesteryear




First example of modern modular furniture.

Thank you for sending me an image of your bookcase. It is a Globe-Wernicke Elastic Bookcase, one of the first examples of "modern" modular furniture that could be ordered to suit one's office or home needs. The term "elastic" refers to the unique design of the bookcases; they could grow or shrink in height with the addition or subtraction of extra sections. The Ikea of yesteryear, Globe-Wernicke started out in Minnesota in the late 19th century and also had factories in various locations throughout Europe as well.

Often these stacking bookcases would not only keep your books and prized possessions dust-free with glass door enclosures, but also would be a fashionable modern piece of furniture displayed in your office or home. As it seems with all well-designed products, the original was copied and other "improved" and less-expensive examples came on the market. Even Larkin soap products jumped in on the action, creating a similar stacking bookcase that could be purchased with coupons from soap.

These bookcases were also called "barrister bookcases" as they were marketed to attorneys to protect their valuable law books. They were also pitched as portable; one could manage lifting or carrying individual sections if necessary to other offices or chambers.

These bookcases were most often made of oak, but were also created in mahogany and walnut depending on the customer needs. The Globe-Wernicke Company flourished until World War II when factory production was shifted for military purposes.

Your oak Globe-Wernicke Elastic Bookcase dates to the early 20th century, appears to be in excellent condition and would be valued at $750.

Curious about an antique you have? Send a photo to bcoles@nhmagazine.com. If there are markings, please take a clear photo of them as well. If your submission is selected, we'll have expert Jason Hackler appraise it. Hackler, manager/owner of New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford (www.nhantiquecoop.com) and partner of Jason Samuel Antiques, is a past officer of the Granite State Antique and Appraisers Association, a principal of the Active Appraisal Group and a member of the N.H. Antique Dealers Association.

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