Being a transplant to the Syracuse area, I found interesting decorative items made out of plastic or faux wood; such as wall art, sconces and mirrors while shopping at my local thrift stores, yard sales, etc. Most of the pieces were tagged “Syroco” on the back. Naturally, as Syroco was based out of Syracuse, NY. The more I hunted, the more I found; similar items made by different manufacturers, sometimes even identical. Found some made out of metal. In attempting to research these items, I found there was very little information about most of these companies.
Here’s what I was able to round up / sort out / dig up:
Who or what is Syroco?
History from Syracuse University
“The Syracuse Ornamental Company, known as Syroco, was an American manufacturing company based in Syracuse, New York. They were best known for their molded wood-pulp products that resembled hand-carving.
Founded in Syracuse, New York in 1890 by immigrant Adolph Holstein, the Syracuse Ornamental Company (Syroco) specialized in decorative wood carving, especially for the local residential market. Products included fireplace mantelpieces and other types of interior decoration popular in late Victorian homes. To meet increasing market demand and sales opportunities Holstein developed a material looked and felt like wood but that which could be shaped, allowing multiple pieces to be produced through a molding process. The new product, which combined wood pulp brought from the Adirondacks with flour as a binder and other materials to give it strength, was extruded and then cut to fit compression molds, which had were made from original carvings in real wood.
Production of this new molded product, known as SyrocoWood, was the mainstay of the company’s production through the 1940s. The finished material could be smoothed and varnished to look like wood, or it could be painted. Sales catalogues from the early 1900s through the 1920s offer hundreds of varieties of moldings, capitals, brackets, volutes, and reliefs of vases, garlands, cartouches, scrollwork, and other details in a variety of styles.
By the 1930s the company had also developed an extensive line of gift and novelty items made of “SyrocoWood” and also “Woodite,” a combination of wood flour and polymer. In the 1960s the company began to use injection molding for some of its products, but did not entirely abandon its old processes.
Syroco added more lines of injection molded plastics when a new plant was opened in nearby Baldwinsville in 1963 which was entirely geared to plastics production, especially PVCs and polystyrene. The company began to use plastic in new “modern” designs and new forms for clocks, mirrors, tables and a range of household items.
In 1965 the company was bought by Rexall Drug and Chemical Company (which soon changed its name to Dart Industries). Dart owned Tupperware, from which Syroco gained more knowledge of injection molding.”
“C” and “D” are from at least 1939, they were used on all of the pieces for the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
The “J” and “K” stickers are from after 1964, when that new logo (the “S” with a chisel through it) was trademarked.
You will find some Dart and Crestyle pieces identical to Syroco. This was common; because Dart and Crestyle were both subsidies of Rexall Drugs (The parent company), so they reused old Syroco dies and just changed the manufacturer name. Syroco purchased Burwood and some of it’s assets in 1997. It’s unknown if they ever did anything with the name.
I have come across lots of pieces that looked as if they were hand painted by someone / not done at the factory. Apparently they sold kits called, “Syroco Craft” which were unpainted pieces. They came with paint and an antiquing solution to apply afterwards.
Some Dart pieces will have a sticker on back that says, “Coppercraft Guild”. The piece would have either: a) have had a piece of copper on the back (The copper would have shown through the openings) or b) been copper in color. See examples above.
There is some information about Coppercraft on wikipedia but I have reasons to believe it’s wrong. They have the company operating for only four or five years. Which is impossible, if you look at the sheer amount of stuff available online, their own catalogs, plus they are featured in several magazines before and after the supposed timeline. Here’s what I think / pieced together. The timeline of the company probably looks more like this:
Coppercraft pieces were made in Taunton, MA. Started in the mid 50s. They were either founded or owned at some point by Tandy (Radioshack). Similar to Tupperware, they sold items through the home party circuit. Sometime around 1974, they were purchased by Dart. They were then later acquired by Towle Manufacturing Company (famous silversmith manufacturer) in the early 80s. Company folded by the early 90s.
In the last twenty years of operation, Syroco changed hands several times; Syratech (1986), Marley PLC (1995), Fiskars (1999) and Vassallo (2004). Syroco finally closed its doors in 2007.
Popular sought out Syroco / Dart pieces: Corkscrews, regency style mirrors, atomic clocks, wall plaque eagle
Related companies/brands: Dart, Coppercraft Guild, Syracuse Ornamental Company, Syroco, Woodite, Syrocowood, Crestyle
Who or what is HomCo aka Home Interiors & Gifts Company?
History from ebay
In 1957, a single mother named Mary C. Crowley was looking for a way to increase her earnings as retail sales specialist. In the years that she had been in the workforce, general retail sales experience in department stores as well as early direct sales experience through companies like Stanley Home Products and World Gifts. She struck out on her own and started Home Interiors and Gifts Inc.
HomCo was designed similarly to Stanley Home Products in that it operated through a representative driven direct-sales system that was largely based around home parties. Many of the women Crowley marketed to eventually became saleswomen, called displayers, who were able to focus their business activities around their family duties. Crowley capitalized on the success of other companies that used a similar model, including Mary Kay, Avon, and Tupperware, with a special emphasis on Christian home values. Closed it’s doors in 2008.
I believe the Homco plastic items were either made at the Syroco/Dart factories or they purchased Syroco’s old dies/patterns and reused them. Homco also used molds that were previously used by Universal Statuary and Miller Studio. Miller Studio primarily worked in chalk ware and Homco used the molds for their resin. Same with Universal Statuary.
At some point, Homco/Home Interiors owned Burwood (see more below).
Popular sought out HomCo pieces: regency style mirrors, last supper and nativity scenes made of porcelain, peacocks
Related companies / brands: Home Interiors, Burwood, HL Hubbell, Home Interiors and Gifts
Links: check out the HomCo group on facebook.
Who or what is Sexton?
Taken from an eulogy for Leland Sexton
In 1946, brothers Leland and Lowell Sexton started Sexton Metalcraft. Leland purchased his brother’s shares in the company in 1967 to become sole owner and president until 2004, when he retired and sold the business.
Interestingly, Leland’s son, has a bunch of the original dies for sale online.
Similar to Syroco and HomCo, they made all sorts of wall art, sconces and knick knacks. Instead of plastic, their pieces were made out of cast aluminum.
Popular sought out pieces: gothic sconces, cats, roosters, patriotic themes.
Who or what is Burwood?
The Burwood Products Company, a wall decor and clock manufacturer, of Traverse City, Michigan made small items from burwood, a composite wood/plastic material that can be injection molded. They also made whimsical designs on buttons. The Company was originally housed in the old Owosso Carriage and Sleigh Company building on Milwaukee Avenue until it burned in December of 1932. Burwood closed its doors in 1997 when bankruptcy restructuring failed.
From another article in 1995:
To regain profitability and recover from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, clock manufacturer Burwood Products Co. plans to move away from low-end products and emphasize licensed and highly decorated lines… The clock vendor plans to focus on licensed and highly decorative items such as Coca-Cola novelty products and non-clock wall decor said Jim Taylor, president of Burwood Products Co.
Burwood Carved Products Co. started in the late 1920s in Port Huron, MI. In 1930, production was moved to Owosso, MI; they had a staff of 15. In 1932, they dropped “carved” from their name. For a period of time, they were owned by Homco, roughly 1974 to 1987-8. In Dec of 1988, there was a union lock out after the new owner and employees could not negotiate a new contract.
I found pieces dating much later, bearing both the Burwood and Home Interiors names. These later pieces usually state, “Made Exclusively For”. The companies split but they continued a working relationship. I believe this to be so, as there is no mention of Homco/Home Interiors and Gifts in Burwood’s bankruptcy. In the end, they filed for bankruptcy and their assets were purchased by Syroco 1997.
(11/2017 update) – I spoke with an ex-Syroco employee a few months ago and he confirmed my suspicions; Syroco was the plant making pieces for Burwood.
Popular sought out Burwood pieces: regency style mirrors, modern clocks, peacocks, buttons, train plaques.
Related companies / brands: Burwood, Hubbell, New Haven, Karved Wood (button line), Arabesque
Links: check out Burwood group on facebook.
Who or what is Ornawood?
I got nothing on Ornawood. They operated roughly from the 1920s to late 1940s. Not as desirable as some of the other companies mentioned.
Popular sought out Ornawood pieces: frames, tie racks, pipe holders, bookends.
Related companies: Ornawood
Who or what is Multi-Products?
History from Scoop
Multi-Products, Inc. existed in Chicago from the 1940s to at least 1959. While their products are well known, the company history is a mystery. Their Disney merchandise 1940-41 catalogue ads state “Division of Protectoseal Company of America, Inc.”
The company started in the 1920s and made products into the mid-1970s. Any further info on this company has been impossible to find.
They made licensed pieces for several comic strip characters; Kings Features Syndicate and Disney.
They are commonly mistaken as Syroco pieces. Most of their early pieces were unlabeled; making them hard to be identified. Later pieces had the company name and copyright year molded into the piece.
Popular sought out Multi-Products pieces: Figurines such as Captain Marvel, Superman, Popeye, Pinocchio.
Related companies: Protectoseal
This concludes the brief histories of several different companies that made home decor items out of faux wood and plastic.
Please feel free to send any comments, questions, additions or corrections.
11/14/17 – added some info to Burwood
04/29/16 – fixed a few errors, added a few lines to Multi-Products.
05/03/14 – added Crestyle as a subsidy of Rexall Drugs (aka Dart Industries), Syroco’s parent company. Fixed a few typos.
02/23/14 added companies Homco shared molds with. Thanks to the Homco/Home Interiors group on facebook.