They’re a common part of every household and buildings, we use them as our thrones every day, but we rarely pay attention to them. Introducing: chairs.
There are thousands of chairs in different sizes and shapes nowadays, but did you know that back in the days, chairs were considered an exclusive item for the rich and famous?
So give your chair a pat on the back for making you feel rich and famous. At least if you were alive during the ancient times.
But all that aside, how much do we really know about chairs? Why are they called chairs? Who’s the genius that came up with this concept?
Ladies and gents, grab your seats as we list down 10 interesting facts about chairs!
Fact #1: Chairs became mainstream only from the 16th century
For thousands of years, people weren’t that particular with the concept of chairs, mainly because it was perceived that they’re exclusive pieces of furniture for royalties. Back then, people make do with those bench-like “chairs” made of wood or stone. Only the members of royal families, pharaohs and other important personalities were able to sit in comfort.
Fact #2: But the oldest chair to-date is almost 5000 years old
Egyptians have chairs they use particularly for their ceremonies, or during big special events and celebrations. Only the pharaohs and important people were given the privilege to sit on these chairs.
Fact #3: The word “chair” has a Latin origin
Don’t worry, they’re not the summoning-demons type of Latin. The word chair actually originated from the word cathedra, which means sit and down in Latin.
Fact #4: The word chair was mentioned ZERO times in the Bible.
We’re talking about the older versions of the Bible here. Taking fact #1 into mind, it’s no wonder the word chair isn’t popular in the Bible. Chairs would probably be referred to more as thrones back then. Commoners only have those bench-like seatings or stools to sit on at their homes or on public places.
Fact#5: There are four geniuses that could be credited for the birth of office chairs.
Search the internet for the inventor of the chair and various articles might tell you that Charles Darwin, the man behind the theory of evolution, is also the genius behind office chairs. He thought of adding wheels to the feet of his chair so he could easily move around and get more work done.
That’s true, but he’s not the first (and only one) to come up with the idea of adding mobility to their chairs for easier access to places and things.
In fact, Thomas Jefferson is also on the list of credits for this innovation. He didn’t think of the wheels, but he came up with the other feature of what modern office chairs have now – swivel base.
As a mini fact, he even penned the Declaration of Independence while sitting in his swivel chair!
More than fifty years had passed before another genius, Thomas Warren, improved the concept of an office chair. He designed a chair he called Centripetal Spring Armchair.
The chair came with features that enable you to tilt, rock, or swivel the chair, making it more comfortable whatever the situation or preference the sitter has.
The Centripetal Spring Armchair
Photo Courtesy: V & A Museum
However, lumbar support wasn’t a part of this innovative chair. It didn’t become popular with folks at that time either, because people think it looks too comfortable to sit on that they’ll become too lazy and unproductive.
Last but not least, the ultimate genius behind office chairs: Otto Von Bismarck, the first chancellor of the German empire. He wanted to boost the productivity of government employees back then, so when the idea of office chairs emerged, he became attracted to it. He ordered hundreds of office chairs for all government officials at different levels and departments.
Later on, companies have adopted the idea of having these comfortable chairs for their employees.
Fact #6: Thomas Edison invented electric chairs
Back in the days, hanging was the primary death sentence among criminals. But Thomas Edison found a more humane way to send criminals to the afterlife, and that is by electrifying them. Thus, the invention of the electric chair.
He also wanted to scare people in using AC current, which was discovered by his rival, Nikola Tesla, and convince them to use DC current instead.
Once the chair was completed, Edison contacted government offices to sell his new invention. One particular personality took interest in his innovative electric chair. Which leads us to fact #7:
Fact #7: Emperor Menelik II of Abyssinia took an interest of Edison’s electric chairs and bought three of them
The Emperor of Abyssinia, which is now called Ethiopia, took a huge interest in Edison’s electric chair. He saw it as a chance to deal with his political enemies.
But there was one problem. He couldn’t run the chair for execution because his empire has no electricity.
Instead of throwing it away, the Emperor just turned the chair into a throne and used it as a means of comfort when making important decisions for his people.
Fact #8: Back in the days, chairs are a pain in the ass. That’s why cushions are a trend before.
Remember when we mentioned what people used as “chairs” before? Well, people back then were suffering from painful behinds. To lessen the discomfort, cushions were made for people to sit on instead of directly hitting their butts in stone or wood.
These pads were also made in different colors and designs, so no wonder people took a liking to them.
Fact #9: The first rocking chair made an appearance in the early 18th century.
Although Benjamin Franklin is sometimes credited for the rocking chair, history says that rocking chairs were already present during the 18th century, when Franklin was still a child.
Rocking horses and cradles were already present during these times, but apparently, an unnamed genius thought of making a rocking chair version. He attached a pair of ice skates to a regular chair’s legs, and voila. Rocking chair!
Fast forward to 1860, Michael Thonet, a German craftsman, had a good sense to create the first bentwood rocking chair. This design is what we commonly know as those with a curved backrest and lighter weight.
Fact #10: Ergonomic design wasn’t a priority for furniture making before until the 70s.
Before that, only office furniture was given priority for an ergonomic design. Living room furniture started to be made with comfort in design, not until the 90s. Imagine the discomfort.