Thomas Molesworth commissions were many and varied over the course of his lifetime. By the mid-1930s, Shoshone Furniture Company’s success in Wyoming and Montana was firmly established. Molesworth’s career in some ways paralleled the Stickleys of the Arts and Crafts era. Molesworth had earned a local reputation for producing furniture according to a preindustrial concept of handcrafted goods made in a small factory environment. By 1936, Shoshone Furniture had begun to expose itself to a national market. A developing relationship with the Abercrombies, who had a ranch in Kelly, Wyoming, quite likely led to Molesworth’s representation by Abercrombie & Fitch in New York.
The Old Lodge
George Sumers, a prominent New York stockbroker, probably got his first glimpse of Molesworth furniture at Abercrombies store. Sumers purchased approximately six hundred acres near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and set about building a fifteen room lodge. The Old Lodge, as it came to be known, was the largest and grandest commission Molesworth ever accomplished. All of the doors and cabinets were constructed in Cody of cedar. The Indian-theme-oriented light fixtures are art in its highest form. The polychrome-mica accents help create a different feeling in each area of the house. From the wonderful terrazzo floors in the basement to the whimsical routings on the furniture, this commission exemplifies Molesworth at his best. Molesworth never reused most of the styles incorporated into the Old Lodge. Indeed he had a knack for fabricating unique designs that made each commission special.
Lake House in Pennsylvania
In 1995, I received a phone call from an older couple who said they had a lake house full of Molesworth furniture. A video viewing of the collection convinced me that it was indeed made by Molesworth. I quickly traveled to Lake Conneaut, Pennsylvania, where I realized upon arriving at the house that it had not changed at all since it was built in 1942. Not only was all of the furniture undisturbed, but the owners had original letters and invoices from Molesworth as well as an original catalog. They even had a shipping crate in the garage with Shoshone Furniture Company’s name on it. I remember the excitement of looking at the Shoshone Furniture Company catalog as well as the invoices showing prices of the furniture as if it had happened today. It was wonderful to admire the pair of Indian saddlebags described in the invoice. This invoice further confirmed my feeling that Molesworth did indeed supply his clients with a wide array of rugs and artifacts.
I bought the complete collection. As we unloaded the truck upon the furniture’s arrival in Jackson several months later, I received an offer from one client to purchase it all. What a thrill it was to sell the collection so quickly and more importantly to keep it together.
The Brandeis Collection
The experience of finding a major collection of furniture intact was not something that I thought I would ever duplicate, but in the fall of 1995 I received a call about another collection in the penthouse of the Brandeis Department Store in downtown Omaha, Nebraska. The commission was most likely done in the early 1940’s and included a king-size bed that was a rarity at that time. I was fortunate to buy this collection, including game heads, china and even the clothes in the closets. Upon returning to my store, I once again sold the entire contents to one collector for a new house he was building in Jackson Hole.
It is quite a tribute to the work of Shoshone Furniture Company that some of Molesworth’s commissions remain intact today in the same locations with the same families. It is interesting to see firsthand that everything Molesworth created was top quality. It is also fascinating to see how he accessorized his early commissions. His trademark use of leather and routed frames speak well of his attention to detail. His choice of Navajo textiles proves that he knew the difference between good and great. He often used old artifacts for decoration and turned southwest Zia pots into lamps. In a time long before the Internet, Molesworth searched out the best resources available for his clients.
Sports Figures as Clients
Various sports figures became major clients of Shoshone Furniture Company. The most famous was probably Mickey Cochrane who, as a player-manager, led the Detroit Tigers to the World Series in 1934 and to the series win in 1935. Cochrane commissioned Molesworth to furnish the 4K Ranch in Dean, Montana and was so impressed that he also had Shoshone Furniture Company outfit his house in Grosse Ile, Michigan—a stone house with timbered ceilings built on a lot given to Cochrane by Henry Ford in recognition of his career with the Tigers. Molesworth designed the lights and furniture and provided Cochrane with a great Grigware/Marshall wood diorama.
Tom Yawkey, owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Socks, was another famous sports figure who admired Molesworth’s work. Molesworth furnished a den in Yawkey’s house with a grouping of high-style furniture. Molesworth also furnished a hunting lodge that is now part of the Tom Yawkey Heritage Preserve, thirty one square miles of managed wetlands and forest in Georgetown County, South Carolina.