Skip to content

Globe-Wernicke Elastic Bookcases

May 14, 2012

Globe Wernicke logo

(This is a work in progress, last update 9/27/2012)

Globe-Wernicke is by far the most well-known manufacturer of barrister bookcases.The intent of this article is to list all of the information I could find on the web in one place. Herein you will find information on identifying the different styles of bookcases, dating particular bookcases, what types of sections are available in each style, dimensions of the sections, and types of finishes known to be used with each style. You will not find pricing information.

Source numbers for this information are given in brackets and the source list is at the bottom of the page.

GW Factory

The Globe-Wernicke Company was created when the Globe Company of Cincinnati, Ohio purchased the Wernicke Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1899 [1][2][5][16][26]. The parent company, Globe, had been founded in 1882 by Henry Yeiser and is best known for their vertical filing cabinets and sectional filing cabinets [1][2][16][26]. The Wernicke Company was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota by Otto Wernicke, widely regarded as the inventor of the sectional bookcase, in 1893 [2][3][11][27]. In 1897, the Wernicke Company moved to Grand Rapids [5][9].

Henry Yeiser Otto Wernicke

Henry Yeiser                                      Otto Wernicke               .

Soon after the creation of Globe-Wernicke, a battle for control of the company began between Henry Yeiser and Otto Wernicke, resulting in Wernicke being forced out by 1903 [5][10][11][27]. Otto Wernicke joined up with the Fred Macey Company of Grand Rapids in 1904, the resulting company changing their name to the Macey-Wernicke Company, which began making bookcases nearly identical to those of GW [5][11]. Trademark and patent lawsuits were then filed against Macey-Wernicke by Globe-Wernicke, resulting in an injunction that forced Macey-Wernicke to change its name to the Macey Company in 1906 [11][22]. GW eventually lost its patent lawsuits against Macey [11][13].

GW went bankrupt following the stock market crash of 1929 [2][3]. It emerged from receivership in 1934, and in 1951 created the Techniplan, the forerunner of the modern office cubicle [2][3]. In 1963, Globe Wernicke bought the Weis Manufacturing Company and changed its name to Globe-Weis Systems [2][3]. In 1973 it became Sheller-Globe after a merger, which was purchased by ATAPCO in 1987, which later became part of Cardinal Brands, Inc., and today exists as the Globe-Weis brand within TOPS Products, part of R.R. Donnelly and Sons Company. [2][3]. Globe-Wernicke was making bookcases for sale to the government at least as late as 1964 [14].

1902 GW ad

The bookcases produced by these companies are usually called “barrister” bookcases because of their popularity with lawyers. However, the preferred term used by Wernicke and GW is “elastic” bookcase [15][18]. The reason for this was to call attention to the flexible nature of the bookcases, in that homeowners could purchase a small bookcase set, and then at a later time purchase additional sections to expand the case as their libraries grew. Later, GW referred to them as “sectional bookcases” [6]. Each bookcase consisted of a base section, one or more book or other sections, and a top section arranged in a stack to form a bookcase that could meet the requirements of nearly any customer and location.

Wernicke Catalogue (c. 1899)
1907 Globe-Wernicke Filing Cabinets Catalogue
1922 Globe-Wernicke Bookcases Catalogue

GW Universal style bookcaseGW Mission style bookcase

Throughout the years, GW produced sectional bookcases in at least twelve styles: the Standard style, the Mission style (also called the Art-Mission style with slight modifications), the Colonial style, the Ideal style, the Sheraton style, the Economy style, the Universal style, the Ambassador style, the Monticello style, the Arlington style, the Washington style, and a style called the 33 Inch Line. The Standard style was the original and still the most common style, characterized by metal straps at the joints between each bookcase section and rounded top and bottom sections. These sections were available in different depths and heights, and (I think) are often usable with sections made by other manufacturers (the later styles of GW bookcases generally are not). The Standard style cases were discontinued by 1922 [6]. GW was offering Mission style cases by 1906 [25] (they were referred to as Art-Mission by 1913), Ideal style cases by 1907 [24], Sheraton style cases by 1913 [20], Colonial style cases by 1915 [19], and the Universal style cases appeared around 1921 [21]. By 1936, GW had introduced the Ambassador style, which appears to be Universal style book sections with a different style base and top [32]. By 1938, they were producing cabinets in the Economy style, which look similar to the Universal style [33]. Around 1940, GW introduced the Monticello style [34][36]. By 1941, there were the Arlington and Washington style bookcases [35][37][38]. The Washington style featured sideways sliding wood or glass doors. The 33 Inch Line cases were designed for government use, and was a line that included not only bookcase sections but also filing cabinet sections. They are narrower and have a different stacking scheme using metal nipples and receivers instead of the slats of the standard units [39]. The 33 inch cases were produced from at least 1915 [40] and at least some of the sections were available as steel units. GW also produced traditional (non-sectional) bookcases in various styles, as well as various lines of sectional and non-sectional filing cabinets in wood or steel. Bookcase sections were available for some of these file cabinet lines.

See here for a post on the Standard style of GW bookcases

GW Mission bookcase sections

Many of the styles were offered in double width versions, and at least the standard style cabinets could be purchased in 3/4 width versions [4]. Other sections besides book sections were available for many of the styles, including desk sections, locker sections, drawer sections, and phonograph record sections. The base sections of some of the styles were available with or without built-in drawers. The book sections could be ordered with various types of glass in the doors, such as beveled glass, or leaded glass (but not stained glass) [4]. Some styles were only available with particular types of door glass. For example, Sheraton units were only available with standard glass, whereas Ideal units  were only available with beveled or double diamond leaded glass [4][6].

GW bookcase door styles

Source for replacement base and top sections or missing doors:

The construction details of a GW bookcase can be useful for dating the piece. The Wernicke and older GW bookcases (one source says from 1895-1929 [4]) interconnect via wooden slats, where a slat on the top of the lower section fits into a gap on the bottom of the section above it. The later GW 3300 series units interconnect with round metal “nipple” pieces on the tops of the sections that fit into round metal receiver pieces on the bottoms of the adjoining sections. Also, the style of door equalizers (commonly called “scissor” mechanisms) can help date a piece. The oldest units have an equalizer as shown below [8]. Later, an equalizer having an additional member for sliding was used. Still later, an equalizer with two of the sliding members was used. Replacements are available for the first two equalizer types. The oldest units have stenciling on the slats (or the backs) that lists patent numbers. Later units have stenciling on the slats warning you to not pick the unit up by the slat.

Wernicke connection method using slats

The Wernicke connection method used a slat on the top of the lower bookcase section that fit into a slot on the bottom of the upper section.

Early GW equalizer

first GW equalizer

Later GW equalizer

second GW equalizer

first GW equalizer

first GW equalizer type

Second GW equalizer type

Second GW equalizer type

Sources for parts:
C&H Hardware
Hardware Tree
Rufkahrs Hardware
Kennedy Hardware

Labels can also be useful for dating the units. The labels are made of paper and glued to the lower inside center of the backs of the bookcase units and attached to the bottom or top (non-exposed) surfaces of the top and base sections. Later units had no paper label but stenciled tag information on the left upper inside wall. The labels list a “size” (or later, “pattern”; on Canadian units, it says “standard”) and a “grade”. The size or pattern refers to the type of section, and the grade refers to the finish applied to the section. The appearance of the label itself can also help date the piece. See the examples below.

older GW label

older GW label

later GW label

later GW label


GW Art Mission label

GW Art Mission label

stenciled GW pattern/grade

stenciled GW pattern/grade

GW Mission label

GW Mission label

Grade or Finish numbers [31] –
114 1/2 – used on the Economy, Standard series
122 1/2 – used on the Economy series
197 – plain oak, weathered finish, brass oxidized hardware
198 – plain oak, fine medium dark antique gloss finish, copper oxidized hardware, finish available by 1899 [23]
199 – plain oak, Golden finish, oil rubbed dull, brass oxidized hardware
217 1/2 – quarter sawed oak, fumed brownish medium wax finish
278 1/2 – used on 3300 Series
297 – quarter sawed oak, weathered dead finish, brass oxidized hardware, dark or medium finish available
298 – quarter sawed figured oak, light polished antique finish, copper oxidized hardware, finish available by 1899 [23]
298 1/2 – quarter sawed figured oak, dead antique finish, dull brush-finished brass hardware
299 – quarter sawed figured oak, deep rich golden finish, highly polished, brass oxidized hardware
299 1/2 – quarter sawed figured oak, dead golden finish, dull brush-finished brass hardware
373 imitation walnut, used on 3300 Series
373 1/2 – imitation walnut, used on 3300 Series
374L – used on 3300 Series
385 1/2 – imitation walnut, used on 3300 Series
397.5 – used on Canadian Economy style
398 – imitation medium dark mahogany, maple/red birch, highly polished, Roman gold end hardware, pearl center door knobs, finish available by 1899 [23]
398 1/2 – Imitation Mahogany, dull finish; brushed brass hardware
498 – (discontinued early) medium dark black walnut, polished, (earlier made of maple), Roman gold end trimmings, pearl center door knobs, finish available by 1899 [23]
516 1/2 – solid mahogany, brownish, dead finish, medium dark, dull brass hardware
517 1/2 – used on the universal style bookcases
598 – solid mahogany, medium dark polished finish, Roman gold end hardware (brass oxidized hardware), pearl center door knobs, finish available by 1899 [23]
598 1/2 – solid mahogany, medium dark dead finish, dull brush-finished brass hardware
599 1/2 – solid mahogany, brownish with a tinge of dull red – Sheraton style only
698 – quarter sawed figured antwerp oak, polished finish, brass oxidized hardware
698 1/2 – quarter sawed figured antwerp oak, dead finish, dull brush-finished brass hardware
798 – quarter sawed figured early English oak
798 1/2 – quarter sawed figured early English oak, medium light (or medium dark?), dead finish, dull brush-finished brass hardware
898 – quarter sawed oak, mission finish, dull black solid brass hardware, furnished on mission and art-mission style of bookcases only
998 1/2 – quarter sawed oak, fumed brownish dark wax finish, dull brush finished brass hardware
2222 1/2
3025 1/2 – used on later Universal series
3098 1/2 – used on later Universal series
3298 1/2 – used on Economy series
3815 1/2 – light oak, used on 3300 Series
4098 1/2 – used on Ambassador style

Following is more detailed information for each of the bookcase styles.

insert links to style pages
Information on the Standard style of GW bookcases

1. GW article at
2. Cardinal Brands history of GW
3. GW history on
4. GW thread at
5. article on Otto Wernicke
6. 1922 GW bookcase catalog
7. article at on barrister bookcases
8. article at on barrister bookcases
9. article on Macey at
10. 1904 article about Otto Wernicke leaving GW
11. 1910 GW vs. Macey lawsuit from US Circuit Court of Appeals
12. 1902 GW vs. Macey lawsuit, US Circuit Court of Appeals
13. 1902 GW vs. Macey lawsuit, US Supreme Court
14. record showing that GW was making bookcases in 1964
15. 1901 article about GW
16. 1909 article about GW
17. 1909 GW ad *
18. 1906 GW ad
19. 1915 GW ad, shows Colonial style
20. 1913 GW ad, shows Sheraton style
21. 1921 GW ad, describing the “new” Universal style
22. 1906 notice from Macey regarding GW trademark suit
23. c. 1899 Wernicke Bookcases Catalogue
24. 1907 GW ad, lists Ideal style
25. 1906 GW ad, lists Mission style
26. Otto Wernicke history at
27. Kovel’s article at Nevada Daily Mail
28. US Patent 557737
29. US Patent 781562
30. US Patent 781561 finish grades
32.1936 GW ad showing Ambassador style
33.1938 GW ad showing Economy style
34.1940 GW ad showing Monticello style
35.1941 GW ad showing Washington and Arlington styles
36.US Patent D126206 showing Monticello style bookcase
37.US Patent D126208 showing an Arlington style bookcase
38.US Patent D127208 showing a Washington style bookcase
39.1918 GW ad showing 33 inch Line
40.1915 GW ad, shows 33 inch line


From → Uncategorized

  1. John Pearce permalink

    Resource 25 offers a catalog of Mission style but does NOT show the Mission style

  2. John Pearce permalink

    If you don’t mind a couple other clarifications… Mission and Art Mission are two different designs. Art Mission has all wood sides and wooden (though sometimes metal) square door pulls, while Mission has metal bands at the top of the sides and metal pulls. I know because I have one of each. You also make no mention of the 800 “Standard” series. I have a lot of GW information if you’re interested.

    • jellocity permalink

      Thanks, I corrected the #25 reference to state that it only lists the Mission style. The main reason I was citing that ad was because it shows that the Mission cases existed in 1906 and were being called “new” at that time. Mostly I’m trying to establish a lower bound on when Mission cases were made in case people want to get an approximate age on their units. Any information on any of the GW bookcases would be appreciated. For example, were the Mission and Art Mission units ever produced at the same time, or did Art Mission replace the older Mission design? If the latter, then pinpointing a date when the switch occurred would be useful for dating the Mission units. Regarding the 800 series cases, everything I have seen calls these cases the “Universal” style, so I have been calling them that (see for example source #6, the 1922 GW catalog). All of the ads and catalogs that I have seen are calling the original bookcase style the “Standard” style. I plan on eventually making posts for the other style cases such as the Universals, similar to the one I did for the Standard style cases:
      I just haven’t gotten around to writing the other pages yet.

  3. Marisa permalink

    Thank you so much for posting this information! It’s helped me greatly in dating the bookshelves I currently got this week. It seems, I happen to have the Standard version, one of the oldest ones. I think that’s pretty cool, thank you again!

    • jellocity permalink

      You’re welcome, I’m glad you found it useful!

  4. Cyndi permalink

    I have a sectional bookcase universal 11 inch unit pattern 811 grade 517 1/2. I don’t seem to see a 517 1/2 only a 516 1/2 this is a global wernicke can you tell me about this

  5. jellocity permalink

    The grades are the finishes. I don’t know what 517 1/2 indicates, but considering it’s so closely numbered to 516 1/2, it’s probably some variation of mahogany finish. They aren’t really made out of mahogany, it’s some other kind of wood stained to resemble mahogany. The universal style cases came out around 1921. I’ll add 517 1/2 to the finish list.

  6. I have one section labeled 998 1/2. It has a wooden drop front and opens to resemble the inside of a roll top meaning it has 2 small drawers and a number of shelves and vertical storage slots. I believe it is a desk insert but know nothing about it. Anyone have a clue as to what I have and when it may have been made?

    • jellocity permalink

      998 1/2 sounds like a G-W finish number, and indicates the finish, which is “quarter sawed oak, fumed brownish dark wax finish, dull brush finished brass hardware”. The label with 998 1/2 will probably also tell you more information, for example it probably has “pattern” or “size” which tells you either a pattern number (100 series is Standard units, and 300 series is either Mission or Colonial) or size (such as D-10 1/4, where C, D, E indicates the depth of the unit and the number indicates the inside height). It sounds like it’s one of the desk sections as shown in the Art Mission image above. There are at least two different desk sections having pattern numbers 364 and 365 and different widths depending on whether it is a Mission or Colonial unit, but I think they were also made for the Standard series as well. If it has the metal bands on the sides then it’s a Standard type unit, which would place it as being made approximately 1900-1920. Mission cases were introduced around 1909 and Colonial cases around 1915.

  7. Gil in Cincinnati permalink

    Does anyone know when they manufactured the metal “elastic” bookcases, or how to date the metal bookcases?

  8. Rev506 permalink

    Hi I’m trying to date a sectional bookcase for my Aunt and I haven’t seen her pattern number in any of the archives I’ve seen. It’s a 3 piece sectional the bottom case is pattern #713 and the two top cases are pattern #709 and the grade for all three are 199 1/2. The labels read like this; Globe Wernicke Sectional Bookcase pattern 709 Grade 199 1/2. The only difference is the bottom one has the 713 pattern. I appreciate any information you can give me. Thank you.

  9. Katherine permalink

    any idea about Globe Wernicke sectional bookcase utility book unit Pattern 710 Grade 114 1/2? I don’t see a utility series mentioned…..

  10. jellocity permalink

    The 700 series numbers are for the Utility or the Economy style cabinets. The Utility style cabinets were around by at least 1914:

    The Economy style cabinets look very similar to the Universal style cabinets. Every 700 series or Utility labeled cabinet I’ve seen had the same appearance as the Universal style cabinets, which I think probably dates them to 1921 or later. But, I’m skeptical that whatever was being called “Utility” back in 1914 would have looked like the Universal style, since the Universal style seems to have been introduced around 1921.

    As far as I know, the Utility, Economy, 700 series cases differ from the other lines primarily by use of cheaper materials, and are lower cost alternatives to GW’s flagship lines. Anyway, I don’t have much info on these series, Here’s what I have:

    Utility Style, Economy Style
    Utility style appeared by 1914, economy style name being used by 1939, Economy style looks similar to Universal style. Not sure if these are distinct styles, but each uses 700 numbering
    known finishes: 114 1/2, 122 1/2, 199 1/2, 398 1/2, 3225 1/2
    709 Book Section
    711 Book Section
    713 Book Section
    741 Top Section

  11. Stuart permalink

    I have an art-mission 3 unit bookcase. The label says: size 10 1/4 and grade 598 1/2. The bottom unit is missing the glass. Where can I go to get replacement glass that will match the other units? About how much will it cost? The link to antique repair guy does not work.

    Thank you. Stuart

    • jellocity permalink

      You should be able to get glass from any local glass supply place and it’s usually pretty inexpensive. They should be able to cut you a piece to fit whatever size you need. It won’t be wavy like the original glass, but I don’t know of anywhere that sells wavy glass.

      Here’s an updated link for the antique repair guy:

  12. I have a Globe Wernicke Co. Elastic Book Case with: 3 shelves. Numbered C-11 198 2580, plus bottom shelf;however the top shelf or part is missing. I believe previous owner was trying to make it fit with two Lundstrom pieces, but they were too long. Where can I find a top piece or pieces to complete it?

  13. Gail Fabrega permalink

    I just purchased a GW piece- size: D Art Mission, grade: 7981/2. I read the above, so understand about finish etc. It needs work. How old is it? it has the older type paper able shown in your article. What could it be worth. I paid 95.00.

    • jellocity permalink

      The earliest ad I’ve seen for Art Mission is from 1909, and they were still being made as of 1922, but I don’t know how much longer after that. If it has an earlier style label, that probably points to the earlier part of the date range. I don’t give values because I’m not qualified, but $95 sounds like a great deal if it’s in decent shape and hasn’t been painted over.

  14. Kimberly Hill permalink

    I have my grandmothers barrister. The label resembles the older GW label in color although not exactly like it. The finish number is 375 Imitation Mahogany. The number is 3313-B.G.-12 Horizontal unit. Any idea on the age of this piece? Any information would be great. It’s a 2 shelf unit.

    • jellocity permalink

      The 33XX numbers are for GW’s 33″ line which was created for the federal government and mostly sold to government and universities. They were available at least from 1915 and were made for a long time. If it has a paper label then that probably points to an earlier range since later ones have stencils on the inside left rather than paper labels. The 33″ line is interesting because it also includes many different file cabinet sections made by various manufacturers that can be mated together to build custom file stacks. Compared to the consumer-grade GW bookcases, they are built like tanks. Here in the DC area they are very common, although in other areas of the country less so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: