A Brief History of Recliners

December 20, 2019 by No Comments

There was a time when your living room furniture was not complete unless there was a recliner included. Although there have been many styles of furniture that have gone out of style (when was the last time you went shopping for a fainting couch?) the recliner has remained popular for nearly a century. Today, recliners are as popular as ever but there are more types of recliners available than ever before. America’s love affair with recliners is obvious.

This iconic style of seating has been memorialized in television shows, movies, and literature. For years recliners were the iconic “dad’s chair” as in “don’t sit there that’s dad’s seat.” They have provided support for armchair coaches to helping rest those weary legs. Where did recliners come from? Exactly who invented the recliner?

The Invention of the Recliner

The idea of a reclining chair dates back to the late 1800s in France. A reclining camp chair was designed that could be used as a lounger, a bed, and a chair in 1850. The first recliner was owned by none other than Napoleon. The chair that Napoleon used was a more primitive, and frankly uncomfortable, version of what we know as the recliner today. So who invented the recliner? Maybe someone in the orbit of Napoleon, but that’s not who truly gets the credit.

This awkward early predecessor to the fluffy comfy recliners we know was made of wood with a simple padded seat and back, however, the design took off. Chairs were designed with holders on the side to contain newspapers and other reading materials, much like our modern recliners have pockets for our remotes.

The Recliner Comes to America

Even in the early days of America, we were creatures of comfort as evidenced by the early arrival of the French-designed reclining chair. Two cousins patented the first reclining chair in the US and started La-Z-Boy Recliners in 1928. The rest, as they say, is history.

So who invented the recliner? The credit goes to Edwin Shoemaker. He and his cousin patented the first modern day recliner in 1928 and sold it under the La-Z-Boy moniker. Mr. Shoemaker gambled on our need for comfort and it turned him into a millionaire. Ironically, Mr Shoemaker died while taking a nap in his recliner at age 90.

For close to a hundred years recliners have graced our living rooms, provided comfort, and has given us a wonderful single person couch to lay back on. These chairs are a part of Americana culture.

As Seen On Television

Starting in the 1950’s recliners were one of the most important props in family-style sitcoms. Every household had one, and every television family had at least one. In 1959 a new type of recliner was invented that was based on ergonomics and was used by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable.

They may just be a chair to some but for many, these chairs are a deeply ingrained part of American culture. Around 8% of all furniture sales were for recliners. Napoleon would be infuriated to see how many improvements we have made to his lounging camp chair, and how we have made it a part of our culture.andnbsp;

Like with many inventions, asking who invented the recliner does not provide a neat answer. Important initial work was done for Napoleon, while the La-Z-Boy was perfected by a farmer from Michigan named Edwin Shoemaker. Regardless of who claims to be the true father of the recliner, what’s important is that it exists and has been providing a comfortable place to rest for generations.

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