These two chairs, produced about the same time in the Northeast, both take the ancient Greek klismos chair as their design source—as evidenced by the continuous curve of the back and seat and the splayed saber legs—but were made in very different ways. The Phyfe chair, part of a large dining set, is hand carved in expensive, imported mahogany. The Gragg chair (perhaps the earliest patented furniture design in the United States) incorporates parts made by steaming and bending wood, which streamlined the cost and speed of production. Gragg’s chair found some commercial success, but his innovations were not widely embraced by chairmakers or consumers. In the early days of industrialization, invention was not as readily accepted as it is today, when consumers line up to purchase the latest cell phone.
Bentwood (ash and maple)
Overall H.: 33 3/4 in. (85.7 cm)
Other (W. (front seat rail)): 18 in. (45.7 cm)
H. (to seat rail): 17 1/4 in. (43.8 cm) (show scale)
Stamped: "S. GRAGG/ BOSTON" on bottom of rear seat rail; "PATENT" on bottom of front seat rail.
This item is not on view
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Montgomery
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Samuel Gragg. Side Chair, ca. 1808-1820. Bentwood (ash and maple), Overall H.: 33 3/4 in. (85.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Montgomery, 72.14. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 72.14_PS6.jpg)
overall, 72.14_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2011
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