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Harvard University Memorial Hall Chairs

History of the Modern Wooden Chair

A Brief History of the Modern Wooden Chair: Have you ever wondered how wooden chairs came to be?

 

Let’s start from the very beginning…

The notion of sitting has been around since mankind evolved to stand on two legs. Early humans sat on the ground, tree stumps, logs, and rocks. However, the earliest record of the modernized western concept of chairs actually dates back to Egyptian tomb paintings around 3100 B.C. In these paintings, Pharaohs and high priests were always perched on a throne. These thrones resembled a chair with four legs and a high ornate back. During this time period, such seating was reserved for the most important members of the community. Chairs were a symbol of divinity among the Egyptian people.

 

Egyptian chair

 

Curule Chair

 

Around 494 B.C., the Romans used chairs to represent status. They invented a chair called the Curule Chair. It was similar to a day bed and reserved for only the wealthiest people.

 

Curule Chair

 

Kilismos Chair

 

Romans eventually created the Kilimos Chair. The Kilimos Chair was still exclusive and reserved for philosophers, scholars, artisans, etc. Historians regard The Klismos chair, throughout (chair) history as one of the most beautiful chairs ever created.

 

antique chairs

Around 70 A.D. in Greece, chairs became a little more mainstream. Grecians created seating for the masses. Born were basic block indentations in amphitheaters (later used in the Roman Coliseum).

 

Chivari Chair

 

The history of the modern Western wooden chair, however, began with a man named Guiseppe Gaetno Descalzi. He was an Italian cabinet maker in Chivari, Italy. In 1807, Marquis Stefano Rivarola commissioned Gaetano Descalzi. His mission was to create a remodeled version of the Persian Empire Chair, the Chivari Chair. His divine woodworking and the structured chair became the standard of comfort and elegance for wooden chairs.

 

Swivel Chair

 

The idea of chairs for anyone and everyone was popularized during the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). The rise of mass production finally made chairs affordable. Working-class families were now able to afford chairs. In fact, in America at this time, Thomas Jefferson was also revolutionizing chairs in his own way. Jefferson was the first to create the swivel chair around 1776. It is said Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence in his swivel chair! (This was partially the inspiration for our very own Burlingame Library Chair.) 

 

Then, In 1840, Charles Darwin invented the modern office chair. Apparently, he added wheels to the feet of a captain chair for convenience and mobility. With the added mobility, he was able to get around his study to access his specimens more quickly. As the Industrial Revolution continued, so did innovation and design in furniture. 

Burlingame swivel chair

 

So, there you have it…a brief history of the modern wooden chair.  Styles are constantly changing. However, the timelessness of wooden chairs remains constant. 

 

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