Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Armchair

Armchair

  • Place of origin:

    Troy (Troy, New York, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Warren, Thomas E. (designer)
    American Chair Company (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast iron, steel and wood, painted, gilded and upholstered metal, replacement top cover, original and later trimming.

  • Credit Line:

    The Barrie and Deedee Wigmore Foundation

  • Museum number:

    W.27-2010

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

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.'

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.

Place of Origin

Troy (Troy, New York, made)

Date

ca. 1850 (made)

Artist/maker

Warren, Thomas E. (designer)
American Chair Company (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Cast iron, steel and wood, painted, gilded and upholstered metal, replacement top cover, original and later trimming.

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.

Object history note

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.

Descriptive line

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.

Materials

Cast iron; Steel; Wood; Metal

Categories

Furniture

Production Type

Mass produced

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.