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Folding Invalid Chair

Decorative Arts and Design

This folding chair can assume more than fifty positions. The design for the chair is derived from European late eighteenth-century portable metal campaign furniture used by military officers in the field. The appeal of elaborate folding chairs to late nineteenth-century American consumers who lived in small urban spaces is confirmed by the nineteen United States patents granted between 1870 and 1889 for similar pieces of furniture. The designer of this chair, Cavedra B. Sheldon, sold his design to the Marks Adjustable Folding Chair Company, which manufactured it for almost twenty-five years. Furniture that metamorphosed into different forms for different uses was not only useful, but also signaled an avid interest in invention and innovation that marked American industry after the Civil War and ushered in the Machine Age.

The upholstery on this chair is modern but reproduces the elaborate schemes popular when the chair was made. Old trade cards such as the one suspended above and images from the Mmarks Company trade catalogue served as models. The detail of the fringe is copied exactly from a rare original fragment that survives on a similar chair in the Denver Art Museum.
MEDIUM Iron, walnut, and new caning and upholstery
DATES Patented 1876; Made ca. 1876–1895
DIMENSIONS Open: 46 3/4 x 27 x 77 1/4 in. (118.7 x 68.6 x 196.2 cm) Height Closed: 19 3/4 in. (50.2 cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS Stenciled in gold: on upper front seat rail, "PAT. FEB. 1-1876"; on lower front seat rail, "MARKS. A.F. CHAIR CO. LIMITED / 816 BROADWAY, NEW YORK".
SIGNATURE no signature
INSCRIPTIONS no inscriptions
CREDIT LINE H. Randolph Lever Fund
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Folding invalid chair, walnut, cane, and iron. Has iron frame, supported on casters painted black and decorated with gold and red lines, and gold, red, and green scrolls. Within the iron frame at the seat, back, and footrest panels are walnut frames with new caning. At the crest of the chair back is a shallow-carved stylized anthemion with incised line decoration. On either side of this are panels of walnut burl veneer and below is a curved, molded crest rail. The back of the chair has been upholstered in new fabric, the arms in new leather. The chair has a ratchet mechanism, which allows it to be folded up completely, opened as a chair, opened further as a lounge chair with foot rest (an iron brace falls to support the foot rest and an iron foot brace rises above the foot rest) and opened still further, when the back is let down to horizontal (also supported by an iron brace) to form a cot. Copy of patent attached to correspondence file. Condition: Generally good. Caning and upholstery are modern. Cushions are lacking. Paint on iron frame is scraped and worn throughout but basically in good condition and stable. Some rust, especially at feet and ratchets, also where paint has flaked. Wear to wood at back of crest rail. Chip missing on back of proper right scroll on crest rail.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Cavedra B. Sheldon. Folding Invalid Chair, Patented 1876; Made ca. 1876–1895. Iron, walnut, and new caning and upholstery, Open: 46 3/4 x 27 x 77 1/4 in. (118.7 x 68.6 x 196.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, H. Randolph Lever Fund, 81.34. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 81.34_overall_bw_IMLS.jpg)
IMAGE overall, open chair, 81.34_overall_bw_IMLS.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 6/1983
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