Have a seat, take a load off, sit down, slang your tote, pop a squat; any way you say it, to do this one needs something to sit on, and what’s better than four legs, a seat, and a back! A chair is a device to support the human body and can be anything from a small wooden chair to an oversized throne. A chair is not just something we rest our assets on; it can be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional. These pieces of furniture can tell stories of grand historical figures or family memories. It’s interesting that chairs are everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. We don’t give a chair a second thought; we just sit down. The staff realized that we have many chairs in our collection, but we have never showcased them. That is what you will see here – a sample of some of our most interesting chairs. It may be the great history behind them, the wonderful design, or that they just bring back fond memories. No matter what shape or size, material or history, chairs are in all of our lives.
Barber chairs helped the barber, but also kept the customers comfortable. Earlier chairs were much like chairs found in homes with wood and upholstery. It wasn’t until the late 1800s when the reclining, swivel barber chair with a footrest was invented. Purchased in 1863, this chair was used by James J. Hartigan until 1915 in a barber shop located in Woodstock, MN. In October 1910 his chair was sent to Saint Paul, MN, to receive several dollars worth of repairs.
Chairs play a substantial role in the home and are with us every step of our lives, helping make our days a little easier. A baby sits in a highchair to have a great platform for launching food to the family dog below. Dining room chairs are utilized in many ways other than just for dining. They can become the place family members sit to spend quality time discussing the news and events of the day. They might be the place we sit for hours until we eat our peas; the place we sit to do homework with help from our parents. One chair might even be pushed to the corner for the “time out” chair.
Comfortable chairs come in all shapes and sizes, even recliners, which are used when we cheer on a favorite sports team or relax after the trials of the day. From desk chairs to reclining chairs, chairs have become everyday items in our lives.
This wooden classical revival chair (pictured on the center platform) was used by William McKinley who was president of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, MN, in 1892. The three- day convention took place from June 7th to 10th in the Minneapolis Industrial Exposition building. At the time McKinley was the Governor of Ohio, but he served as President of the United States from 1897 until his assassination in 1901.
During the 1940s husband and wife duo Charles and Ray Eames started experimenting with molding thin sheets of plywood into curved shapes. Their experiments led to one of their creations, the lounge chair. The chair was designed to comfortably fit the curve of the body and did not require cushions. Their discoveries also led to a commission from the U.S. Navy in 1942 to develop plywood splints, glider shells and stretchers used during World War II. In 1946 their chair was produced by Herman Miller, and its popularity grew as the 1999 millennium issue of Time Magazine called it the best design of the 20th century. The Eames chair is pictured in the far right of the photo.
Toward the end of the 19th century, a style was created using objects that represented the Wild West and American Frontier. As a result, furniture constructed from animal horns and antlers became popular, like this one made with cattle horns. These chairs were mass produced in cattle ranching areas and cities such as Kansas City, St. Louis, and Chicago because of their big stockyards. During the mid-1880s, Chicago was a leading producer in furniture and became the center of making horn furniture due to the availability of horns from the Union Stockyards. Pictured on the right of the elevated shelf, this chair is especially interesting because of the platform rocking base.