The History of Reclining Chairs

June 09, 2015


As comfy as they are practical, everybody loves recliners. However, not many know the interesting history behind the furniture.

A noble beginning

The idea of reclining furniture emerged in France during the mid 19th century. In fact, it is believed that the first reclining chair was built for Napoleon III—the nephew of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte.

These early recliners, however, were very different from the furniture we know and love today. Built with a portable steel frame, early recliners were designed to function as a chair, chaise lounge, and bed all in one.

Growing popularity and innovation

Recliners weren´t just for royalty, however. Shorty after it´s invention, the reclining chair/lounge/bed design created in France arrived to the common people in France and the United States—often including a book holder for increased comfort. Meanwhile, in the 1860s, a British furniture company released the Morris chair—a chair built with a hinged back. This invention also became very popular—even inspiring a hit song called ¨you´d be surprised¨ by the renowned jazz artist Irving Berlin.

The modern recliner 

In 1928, two American cousins named Edward Knabush and Edwin Shoemaker built a revolutionary new model for a wooden reclining chair—the first ¨modern¨ recliner. Two years later, the brothers secured a patent for an upholstered, mechanical version of the chair. 

Finally, in the 1960s, an Evansville, Indiana furniture maker named Daniel Caldemeyer earned the titled of ¨father of the modern recliner.¨ His ¨rocket recliner,¨ based on the knowledge of kinetic science he attained while serving in the air force, was used by NASA, president Lyndon Johnson, and ultimately the American public. Caldemeyer´s classic and comfortable design, along with his brilliant marketing strategies, helped propel the recliner to the widespread popularity it enjoys to this very day.