Most Coloradans know the legendary American Furniture Warehouse, but there's a much smaller group that remembers the American Furniture Company. That's unfortunate because American Furniture was a Denver institution from 1898-1974.
The location that's pictured in this wonderful photo is 1601 Lawrence, sometime around 1920 (and it's just one of many lovely nighttime photos of Downtown Denver in our Digital Collections).
The American Furniture Company was founded in 1898 by Samuel F. Cohn, a Russian immigrant who worked (and lived) in Larimer Street restaurants until he saved up $1,000 to finance his dream.
During its nearly 100-year run, the American Furniture Company distinguished itself as a somewhat progressive retailer, especially when it came to how it treated its employees. In 1950, the store became one of the first retailers west of the Mississippi to offer its employees a five-day workweek.
To accommodate the switch, American added 15 employees and everyone worked 9 a.m.- 5:30 p.m. on a rotating schedule that allowed the store to remain open on Saturdays, but stay closed on Sundays. Prior to the change, male employees worked 45 hours over six days while females worked 43 hours.
Cohn's heirs didn't have quite the passion for value furniture as Samuel and sold the firm off to the American Investment Co. (AIC) in 1967. In January of 1974, AIC sold out to a group of six American Furniture employees. Unfortunately, the owner employees just couldn't make a go of it, and by October, they were hosting their own going-out-of-business sale.
That's a sad end to an epic run, but retail workers in Colorado can thank the company for its embrace of employee-friendly policies, like the five-day workweek.