A Brief History Of The Recliner, The Official Chair Of Dads Everywhere

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You have Captain Kirk’s Enterprise seat, and its authoritarian swivel. Then there’s Pee Wee Herman’s Chairy, which, well, talks. And who can forget the Iron Throne, constructed from the swords of surrendered enemies. There’s no shortage of iconic power seats. But the greatest throne isn’t found in a spaceship or beneath the butt of an aging Starfleet officer (or a Cerci Lannister). Rather, it’s parked humbly in front of a paycheck’s worth of flat-screen pixels or sequestered in a cozy den: the always-comfy recliner.

Whether a classic model with a fat lever you pull to kick your feet out, or some modern sitter with a built-in mini fridge and shiatsu massage, the recliner is the #dadseat of choice. But, as is the case with your chair’s ass-groove, it didn’t just form itself. The recliner has a long and glorious history. Here’s how it happened. (“Sit back and relax” is implied).

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The World’s First Recliners

History indicates that chaise lounges and daybeds – early forerunners to common recliners – have been around since ancient Egypt. In fact, many depictions of Greek gods and goddesses show them sprawled out on noticeably decadent daybeds called “klines.” Through their evolution, the chaise lounge and daybed stood for luxury and wealth. And probably the feeding, and subsequent vomiting, of many fine grapes.

greek kline

Wikimedia Commons

The Real Tooth About Recliners

You’ve got dentists to thank for more than that million-dollar smile. Though not officially recognized as a “recliner,” the first dentist’s chair — invented in 1790 — was adjustable and featured a moveable headrest (probably a good thing considering Novocain didn’t come about until 1905).

In the early 1800s, the first fully-reclining molar-model debuted. It also featured a pump that raised and lowered the patient. By 1867, a British dentist invented a chair that raised a patient up to 3 feet while fully reclined and even tilt them side-by-side. But he was probably just showing off.

Leave It To The French…

Around 1850, the French developed a reclining device that could serve as a chair,  bed, and chaise lounge. Built around a steel frame, the portable recliner featured padded armrests. Though it’s unknown if he owned the legitimate first, it is known that Napoleon III was an early adopter. No word on if it was smaller than others or featured a special pocket into which he could shove his tiny hand.

Set In Motion

In the late 1800’s, thanks to developing woodworking techniques, seats that swiveled, slid, raised, and lower became more common. While these types of chairs eventually morphed into early recliners, they served more as conversation pieces than actual furniture. What a waste of what legitimately sounds like a good time.

A Business Is Born

In the late 1920s, American cousins Edward Knabush and Edwin Shoemaker filed a patent application that trademarked the design of a simple, reclining wooden bench that later became the traditional recliner. This license to manufacture chairs paved the way for the formation of a little company called La-Z-Boy (fist bump). Founded in 1927, the company is the reigning king of recliners, worth 1.5 billion, and synonymous with dads everywhere.

Care For A Massage?

In 1968, a massage therapist named David Palmer created the first chair that shook sitters like martinis in hopes of melting their knots away. Called “Chair in a Box,” it wasn’t a recliner, but it later led to the development of robotic massage chairs. First brought to market in 1954 by the Family Fujiryoki company of Japan, robotic reclining massage chairs grew popular in America, but are common in Japan, where it’s estimated that more than 20 percent of households own one.

first-massage-chair

Archie Bunker Takes The Throne

In 1971, CBS debuted All in the Family in which Archie Bunker, the sitcom’s blue-collar star, lambasted America’s changing sociopolitical climate from the comfort of his pale yellow recliner. After the show ended in 1979, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History nabbed it for their permanent collection.

Get Outta That Chair!

Today, the recliner comes in a variety of models, from $11,000 CPU-controlled, medical-grade massage chairs to those that stow 6-packs in the armrest. In any case, the chair is a regal seat for hard working guys everywhere. It’s a throne from which you can watch TV and cuddle with your kids. It’s also the staging area for a very important parenting lesson: don’t wake dad from his nap. What can’t it do?

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