Armchair

ca. 1850 (made)
Armchair thumbnail 1
Armchair thumbnail 2
+6
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This 'Centripetal Spring Armchair' is an ingenious example of American patent furniture which uses innovative technology to provide comfort. Eight lengths of compressed steel form the patented ‘centripetal’ spring which, combined with a central turning mechanism, allows the sitter to tilt, rock or swivel. Although made of ornately moulded cast iron and both decorated and undecorated sheet steel, all surfaces that come into contact with the sitter are upholstered. The design was patented in 1849 by Thomas E. Warren (active 1835-1860), who held at least two patents relating to railway car and seat design, and the chairs were manufactured in Troy, NY, a city known for its production of ironwork.

When a similar example was exhibited in the American section of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, a writer in The Illustrated Exhibitor observed that 'the springs sustaining the seat from the under-frame give to it an agreeable elasticity in every direction. The freedom with which the chair may be turned on its centre, renders it very convenient to a person who may want to turn to his library-shelf or side-table, as he can do so without leaving his seat. The castings are good, and the design neat and pretty; the whole reflecting much credit on the inventor and on American art.'





object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Cast iron, steel and wood, painted, gilded and upholstered metal, replacement top cover, original and later trimming.
Brief Description
Armchair, metal, painted and gilded, upholstered, design patented 1849 by Thomas Warren, this example made by the American Chair Company, Troy, New York, ca. 1850.
Physical Description
Centripetal spring armchair with cast iron and steel frame elements, sheet metal back (painted and upholstered) and metal seat (with traces of gilding and upholstered.
Production typeMass produced
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'Warren's / Centripetal Spring / Patented Sept. 25, 1849; also in England, Nov. 21, 1850. / This Spring is applicable to all varieties of Chairs, Sofas, Bed- / steads, Piano Stools, Carriages of all kinds, / Rail-Road Seats, &c., &c. / Invented by Thomas E. Warren, and manufactured by / American Chair Company, Nos. 117 and 119 River-street, / Troy, N. Y. / T. E. Warren, Agent.' (Printed label tacked to underside of seat)
  • THOS E. WARREN’S / PATENT. / American Chair Co. / TROY. N.Y. (Stencilled mark on underside of seat.)
Credit line
The Barrie and Deedee Wigmore Foundation
Object history
Related Warren chairs include those in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY (1977.255), Saint Louis Art Museum, MI (147:1965) and the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein.



Literature



The Illustrated Exhibitor, (No. 8, 26 July 1851), p. 140, illustrated an engraving of a similar chair, noting that it was 'a very handsome spring-seat chair, manufactured by the American Chair Company, of Troy, New York, and is exhibited in the United States department. This chair is the invention of Mr. Thomas E. Warren, of Troy, by whom it has been patented in the United States. The framework of the chair is made wholly of cast-iron, the base consisting of four ornamental bracket feet, mounted on castors, and secured to a centre-piece, to which eight elliptical springs are attached. The springs are connected to another centre-piece, which sustains the seat of the chair on a vertical pin; on this the chair-seat revolves, while at the same time the springs sustaining the seat from the under-frame give to it an agreeable elasticity in every direction. The freedom with which the chair may be turned on its centre, renders it very convenient to a person who may want to turn to his library-shelf or side-table, as he can do so without leaving his seat. The castings are good, and the design neat and pretty; the whole reflecting much credit on the inventor and on American art.'



David A. Hanks et al., Innovative Furniture in America: From 1800 to the Present (New York: Horizon Press, 1981), pp. 126-9.
Summary
This 'Centripetal Spring Armchair' is an ingenious example of American patent furniture which uses innovative technology to provide comfort. Eight lengths of compressed steel form the patented ‘centripetal’ spring which, combined with a central turning mechanism, allows the sitter to tilt, rock or swivel. Although made of ornately moulded cast iron and both decorated and undecorated sheet steel, all surfaces that come into contact with the sitter are upholstered. The design was patented in 1849 by Thomas E. Warren (active 1835-1860), who held at least two patents relating to railway car and seat design, and the chairs were manufactured in Troy, NY, a city known for its production of ironwork.



When a similar example was exhibited in the American section of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, a writer in The Illustrated Exhibitor observed that 'the springs sustaining the seat from the under-frame give to it an agreeable elasticity in every direction. The freedom with which the chair may be turned on its centre, renders it very convenient to a person who may want to turn to his library-shelf or side-table, as he can do so without leaving his seat. The castings are good, and the design neat and pretty; the whole reflecting much credit on the inventor and on American art.'







Bibliographic Reference
Westman, Annabel, Fringe, Frog and Tassel. The Art of the Trimmings-Maker in Interior Decoration in Britain and Ireland (London: Philip Wilson/The National Trust, 2019, ISBN 978 1 78130 075 6) pp. 219 (fig. 9:1), 222.
Collection
Accession Number
W.27-2010

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record createdFebruary 1, 2011
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