Saturday, July 30, 2016

Local Saturday - The Secret Wood of Syracuse

Yesterday, I blogged about a pair of salt and pepper shakers that I cherish so much, because they are one of the few things I have from my late mother.

My Mom, who died in 1965, and lived all her life in New York City, never told me their story.  But, I was able to do an online search and found they were probably made in the late 1940's, out of a material called "Syroco Wood".  They were possible manufactured in Syracuse, New York, a city about 70 miles to the north of where I live (the Binghamton, New York area).  The "Syroco" in the name stands for the "Syracuse Ornamental Company".  It came into being in 1890.  It finally closed in 2007.

Don't these shakers look like they are intricately carved?  So did I but the truth is stranger (and more fascinating) than that.  The story is worth sharing on my Local Saturday feature.

Quoting from the Syracuse University website:
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 [a New York mountain chain] 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.
The process favored shallow molds with little undercutting, and this served well for the creation of a wide variety of "carved" relief work to be applied to different sorts of flat surfaces such as walls, furniture and caskets. Production of this new molded product, known as SyrocoWood, was the mainstay of the company's production through the 1940s.

My guest photographer (a friend whose photos I feature from time to time) emailed me last night and sent me this link.  It is full of fascinating information about Syroco and other manufacturers.

So many gone now. 

And strange how, all these years, I owned a somewhat local product and never knew what it was.

Yes.  Isn't it good Syroco wood.


  1. I love stories like this. How great that you were able to trace the history of these and discover their background. I'll have to look up Syroco wood now. You've made me curious.

    1. It is a fascinating material. See the kinds of things you learn by blogging?

  2. Fascinating. Amazing what people come up with. And if you hadn't blogged about them, you never would have looked this up.

    1. So true. Now, I just hope a reader knows something about how to take care of Syroco wood, as these pieces are showing their age.

  3. How neat! Those figures are even more extra-super-special now, if that's possible!


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