Folding Chairs

June 2015 – I am receiving an increased number of requests for information on particular chairs and appraisals. While I love to see original chairs, I am not in a position to give advice on the value or restoration of chairs. I simply find patent furniture to be a fascinating research subject. 

Here is some information that will hopefully help if you are considering a folding chair….

This 1855 Patent is one of the earlier 19th century folding chair patents. It has a simple side X construction with a slight curve in the back to leg piece. The seat is solid with a cushion set in.

This chair from the New York State Museum, is circa 1866. This walnut chair was made in NYC by B.J. Harrison And Company. The museum’s descriptions is as follows “32 1/2 x 16 x 17 in.  Curved crest rail above two side rails ending in molded rear seat rail. Beneath this are two dowels fitted to another molded rail. Oriental-type rug seat (not original).” The seat folds up with a side X pivot while the back folds down. A similar chair construction can be seen in this  1863 Patent.

 This circa 1860-70 chair is Marta Vincent’s. It has been repaired and recovered from the naked state in which it was found with the finish was completely worn off and the carpet seat was in tatters. The back splint has been replaced. The seat is now a piece of ingrain wool carpet supported by canvas.

Martha’s above chair is a similar folding shape as the chair in this post war photograph

The shape of this chair’s curved pieces making the side X construction seen in many full-size chairs attributed to those who worked with Vaill. This construction can be seen in this  1870 Patent 1.

Added March 15th, 2010: A reader contacted me about a chair coming from a private collection. She has been kind enough to share this lovely child’s folding chair which looks much like the one in the photograph above. This chair has a great glowing patina. Notice the darker areas where the chair would have been picked up and carried when folded. The carpet seat is in good condition with deep reds and greens in a large, well centered design. The curves of the legs tend to suggest it was made by someone who worked with Vaill. The back piece is curved nicely while appearing quite solid.



Circa 1870-90. These chairs were manufactured by Edward W. Vaill. It is a side X construction with a second pivot point on the back and a hinge on the lower back leg. The top chair has an incorrect material. The bottom chair shows a floral or scenic design done in tapestry, possibly original or a replacement. In both cases, the wood is likely walnut Notice the curves in the leg and cross support piece. Also notice the turned finials on the top. Both chairs have paper labels found on the front cross runner underneath the fabric. The construction of this chair can be seen in this 1875 Patent by Wakefield, assignor Vaill. This is a similar patent from  1876.

 This chair is Marta Vincent’s. I think it could have been made between 1863 and the 1880s. It has the original red carpet, which she has supported with canvas underneath. It appears to have a back similar to the back in the Vaill chair above. The back to front leg cross piece has a slight curve while the other leg begins to show an S curve. It appears to be a walnut. Notice the location of the splits in the seat. These weaknesses are very much at risk of further damage if not supported.

This is my chair, one Dad had for me that was found after he passed. I still have have yet to spend time really looking at this chair. It is an early Eastlake style from the last quarter of the century.  The seat material is likely original.

 This rocker folding chair is Marta Vincent’s. When Marta found it, it was in pieced needing to be put back together. The seat and back are a vintage ingrain wool carpet with the sear supported by canvas and the outside back is covered  in brown cotton sateen similar to the method of the original covering on the red one.

 This chair is as it was found. Though nicely intact, the seat and back may not be original. The turning and finials on this chair are quite different then the other chairs seen here. The closest patent I’ve found for dating is this 1881 Patent with a far more complex construction.


This Chair is held by the Brooklyn Museum. It is attributed to P. J. Hardy as the maker while Hunzinger was likely the designer based on the style and the metal tag Hunzinger label. The Museum’s description is “Folding chair. Ebonized wood with gilt incised decoration, metal hardware, and original upholstery. Turned gilt incised members that terminate in small ball pads intersect at mid-point on sides, secured by small metal rods on which they pivot and allow folding action. Identical turned and gilt incised stretchers connect lower front and back legs. Dark red plush upholstery with central vertical machined floral tapestry panel. Multi-colored fringe to front and sides of seat secured with domed metal tacks. Slung narrow woven textile strips with red key pattern on white ground form arms attached to front and rear stiles with metal attachments; the attachment on back stile has pressed head of putti. Movable black metal members hinged to underside of seat at sides and attached to upper front legs below seat to secure chair when open for seating. CONDITION – Original upholstery faded and distressed, but intact.” For more on Hunzinger’s furniture, please visit this Hunzinger blog.

 Late 19th century folding chair with an Eastlake feel.

Post-CW Catalog of Folding Chairs.

A pre-Civil War English patent chair:

This is one chair I would have dated to later in the 19th century if I came across it in person. This illustration and description comes from 1824 though, in the Transactions of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce volume 43.1824 folding chair My previous research indicated folding chairs did not appear notably in the US prior to 1850. This illustration, 26 years earlier, is from London.

Folding Chair

The Silver Vulcan Medal was this session presented to Mr. J.P. Hubbard, Leadenhall-street, for a Folding Chair. A specimen which has been placed in the Society’s repository.

In camp, on board ship, and in other situations in which stowage room is very limited, demads are continually making on the ingenuity of the cabinet-maker, to compress into as small a space as possible all articles of domestic furniture when not actually in use. The common camp-stool, either with or without a back, thus forms the substitute for a chair; but the webbing does not make a very firm or convenient seat, and this circumstance induced Mr. Hubbard (who is not a cabinet-maker) to add to it a folding wooden seat, with a spring catch. The result is, a light chair of a very firm and simple construction, which may be afforded at a small cost, and when not in use may be hung upon a peg, or may be stowed away in any other manner, occupying not more than one third the space required for a chair of common construction.

Plate VII, fig 13, shows the chair when open or ready for use. It consists, like the camp-stool with a back, of two frames crossing each other, and united by the screw-pins u u; v is the wooden seat, having two hinges v v in front, and a hole x at the back to receive the spring catch y in the back rail, as shown fig. 14; beneath the seat are two pieces of webbing w w to limit the expansion of the two frames, and thereby to cause the spring catch to fall into its hole without any trouble: fig. 15 is a side view of the chair when folded.

Frequently Asked About Chairs:


Folding Rockers like this one seem to be every where… good reason…. They were reproduced for stores like World Market and Pier One in the 80s. They are Not a reproduction of a mid-century chair. They are a reproduction of an early 20th century chair.

They are Not Collingnon Brothers chairs. Please cautiously read the Collingnon chair site. I find some pieces are unclear. I recommend looking at this set of search results for their patents, including the 1868 patent which if for a folding chair, not a rocker.




 21st century chair manufactured for camping, modern camping. Not a style produced during the Civil War.

Published in: on November 12, 2010 at 6:41 pm  Comments (49)  

49 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Anna I just found your blog. I have been looking for information on a chair my grandmother passed down for some time and until now have never seen another one like it online. It looks exactly like the Wakefield/Vail chair that was Martha Vincent’s. The carpet is different and quite old and threadbare. There is actually a second chair, unfortunately many years ago, before she knew better, one of my sisters removed the carpet and tried to white wash it. I wonder if you have any information for me on restoration and of value. My father has given the chairs to me to sell. I was told that they originally came from a church and the family called them church chairs. My grandmothers family was from Louisville, KY and New Albany, IN and were early settlers in both places. My grandmothers father brought his family to Detroit, MI in 1918. I think it possible that the chairs came from the Fifth and Walnut Street Methodist Church in Louisville that earlier family members attended. Thank you for your wonderful article.

  2. Hello Jeane,
    How nice to have a pair of chairs from your Grandmother, even if one has been altered. Would you like to share a photo or two of the one you have and the altered one? That may help me advise you better. If so, I’ll send you my email address.
    Something else that will help you is if you can find any label. Often one is located under the carpet or tapestry on the front runner. To find it, you will need to fold the chair and lift up the material. You may need a flashlight or even a small mirror to see it. Some makers used paper labels which can survive under the material whil others use metal ones.

  3. Hi Anna,
    I have done as you suggested in looking for a label and haven’t been able to locate one. Unless one is hiding under the old upholstery (which I don’t really want to disturb) there probably isn’t one. I can try removing the macrame on the other chair if you think I should. I would love to send you photos.
    Jeane (

  4. Hi Jeane,
    I sent you my email address. Don’t take anything apart to find a label. I’ll see what I can figure out from the pictures first.

  5. Dear Anna,
    I have a E.W. VAILL folding rocking chair. It has a paper label on it. I think it has been recovered. The label is still intact except for one part of it. I can send you a picture of the chair and label. I have had it for many years stored in a closet. I would be interested to know what the value is.

  6. Hi Darlene,
    I would love to see your chair’s photos. I’ll send you an email.

  7. Hi, We recently inherited a child-size folding chair with a carpet seat. It looks almost exactly like the folding chair in the period photograph with the little boy and still has its original carpet seat. Every child in my husband’s family took their turn sitting in the chair by the fireplace over the years. Do you know the date and maker of the small chair? Are early child-size folding chairs rare? K.

  8. What a wonderful family piece to have!
    This style chair was produced by Edward Vaill. It may also have been mimiced by others. Since your chair has the original carpet, it may also have the original label. The labels are often found on the front runner under the carpet. If you fold the chair so the carpet is loose, you may be able to use a small mirror to see if a label is still there. Do not attempt to do this if the carpet is fragile though.
    In reply to the rarity, I have yet to see child size chairs in person such as your’s. So, yes, I would consider them more rare. I would love to see pictures of your chair if you are willing to share.
    I would suggest writing down the history known about the chair in your family so future generations know the importance.
    Thank you for sharing!

  9. Hi, Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the information. There is a paper tag, and perhaps the dull residue of a second, but it is so darkened with age that I can no longer make out the text. I appreciate your suggestion about writing down the history of the child’s chair and will include a copy of your blog regarding the history of folding carpet seat chairs in the file. I can send you a photograph of the folding chair for your research if you provide an email or postal address. Thank you again, K.

  10. I’m glad I could help.
    It is to bad you can’t read the tag. Paper tags were common as were some metal plates.
    I am sending you my email address.

  11. I have an E W Vaill rocking chair with the tag on the front underside

    I would like to get information about this chair, how could I get inform. on this.

  12. I also have the same mystery rocker from as the above, which I would also like info on. Plus as mentioned an EW Vaill rocking chair with tag.

  13. How wonderful to have a chair with the label intact. Here is a list of books that you may find helpful. There tends to be more information on Hunzinger than Vaill for some reason.
    Annual Report of the Commissioners. United States Patent Office: 1871.
    Dubrow, Eileen and Richard. American Furniture of the 19th Century 1840-1880. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2000.
    Flint, Richard W.. “George Hunzinger”. Nineteenth Century Furniture Innovation, Revival and Reform. New York: Art and Antiques, 1982.
    Harwood, Barry Robert. The Furniture of George Hunzinger; Invention and Innovation in Nineteenth Century America. New York: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1997.
    Harwood, Barry Robert. “The Furniture of George Jacob Hunzinger” The Magazine Antiques. Discovery, 1997. Pg832-842.
    “Hints for Anniversary Presents” Home and Society. Scribers, Oct. 1874.
    Marvin, Abijah Perkins. History of Worcester County, Massachusetts. 1879.
    Roth, Rodis. “Nineteenth-century American Patent Furniture” Innovative Furniture in America from 1800 to the Present. Ed. David Hanks. New York: Horizon Press, 1981.
    Sheraton. The Cabinet Dictionary. London: 1803.
    Talbot, Page. “Continuity and Innovation: Recliners, Sofa beds, Rocking Chairs, and Folding Chairs.” Antiques. May 2002, p 124-133.
    Talbot, Page. “Innovative Furniture” Nineteenth Century Furniture Innovation, Revival and Reform. New York: Art and Antiques, 1982.

    If you want to share some photos, I may be able to point you in the right direction on the Vaill chair. I still have not been able to find better information on the mystery chair.

    Warm Regards,

  14. Hello,
    Thank goodeness i have discovered your blog. I have just been given a folding rocker. It still has a label which reads Patentee manufactor
    Worcester Mass
    July 18th 1876, not sure how these word were placed, as my eye sight is poor and had it read out to me.
    the timber is in excellant condition, still has what appears to be original carpet seat and back. The carpet is dirty and unfortanely has torn away up the top where it joins timber, still in good condition.
    Can you tell me anything about this chair, and if it is worth it I would like to insure it so how can I have it valued.
    I live in australia and the lady who gave it to me, says it has been in the family from America for as long as she can remeber.
    Thankyou Debi

  15. Hi Debi,
    I’m so glad you enjoy my blog.
    What a wonderful gift to be given. I can try to help you learn about your chair. But, I am not an appraiser and don’t really know where to begin to figure a value in Australia. Tell me what you know about your chair. It could be helpful to share a photo if you wish.

  16. Anna,

    I stumbled onto your blog trying to find information on a set of folding chairs I recently came into possession of (image: As a Civil War reenactor, I bought these to use in camp, but I wanted some historical information to go along with them. All I can tell you about them is that they were purchased from a flea market in Springfield, Ohio. The seller had rescued them out of a basement. I haven’t found any labels or stamps that might indicate a manufacturer. I can confirm that they have been refinished, and I am uncertain if the carpet seats on them are original.

    I stumbled onto this eBay listing ( that is a perfect match to my set–it gives additional photos of the frame folded up.

    Any help is greatly appreciated.


  17. Hi Russ,
    I’m glad you found. I must admit part of that is selfish because it means I get to see your great find. You really do have a nice find. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone finding a set of 4 chairs appropriate for the era together. Good job!!! I’m glad the seller retrieved them from that basement.

    I’m sure you noticed the similarity to the chair on my blog from the New York State Museum. Here is the detailed link for that chair.

    Your seats do appear to be turn of the century or later replacements. Since you have a great set, you might consider replacing the seats with ingrain or brussels carpet searts. For the best strength, consider a reproduction carpet from a place like Heirloom Family Weavers. Another option is to have hand done embroidery seats made. But, that will get quite pricey.

    Again, thanks for sharing your find,

  18. Anna,

    Thanks for your reply. As I continued my search, I stumbled onto the patent, located here:

    I’ll look into replacing the seats, as you suggest.

    When I first purchased them (for what has got to be a steal–$30 for the set) I did not expect them to be from so close to the Civil War period. The patent is dated 1866 (and reissued 1868)–could that mean that the chairs would be manufactured and sold prior to the issuing of the patent, or would the manufacturer have waited for the patent to be issued?

    Is there information somewhere that could indicate how many of these chairs were made?


  19. Russ,

    I added a post with a link to the original chair article for the Citizen’s Companion. As soon as I can remember to take my camera to my mom’s, I will get photos of the chair she found for me. It is quite like your chairs. The patent you found is the one I was going to discuss when I posted the chair.

    You really did get a bargain.

    I do think many to most chairs were in production prior to the patent being applied for. I do have some patent furniture with ‘patent pending’ labels on certain pieces.

    I do not have a resource for the manufacturing stats. I would love to find one. I don’t know why the stats aren’t as available as many other items I’ve researched. I think it would be more likely to find some of the stats on the military chairs. It could be possible to find the records of a particular manufacturer if one was to find where they are stored.


  20. I too have a E W Vaill, folding rocking chair. Tapestry or carpet back and seat. Pat looks like July 8, 1876 #153. Chair is in good shape, wood and metal especially. Fabric is worn but you can still see the scenery. Paper label is still there and I can read most of it. There are arms on this chair and it would seem to be for a child unless folks were a lot smaller in 1876!! I bought it at a garage sale for $15. Did I pay too much, lol? Here is my email address, — and my name is Donna. Thank you so much.

  21. I’ve had two of the mystery chairs and seen several more in antique shops. All are very similar, including the upholstery, except for slight variations in color. I’ve always assumed, given the similarity and the wide geographic distribution, that the chairs were turn-of-century Sears and Robuck or other mail order. Thoughts?

  22. That would be a good direction to look at. I will go look for some turn of the century Sears catalogs. Thank you for the suggestion.

  23. I also have one of the mystery rockers, and have just received what I think is a Queen Anne style bench with tapestry seats matching the tapestry on the mystery chair…It seems like they may match somehow, but I definitely don’t know enough about furniture to know for sure…This may make sense if they were from a catalogue as suggested above…

  24. Anna,
    i have found a EW Vaill folding rocking chair (paper label clearly visable:patented Oct 28th 1879)in my grandmothers attic. The carpet seat and back seem in good shape though the fringe hangs in spots,the wooden dowels surprisingly in great shape the chair opens and closes with ease. where do I begin to research this chair? Internet searches are tedious and lead no where Any help/direction greatly appreciated

  25. Hi Debra,
    What a lovely find.
    Sadly, very little is written about theses chairs or their makers. There are some books on patent furniture available. (I’ll try to remember to grab those when I’m on a computer.) You will likely want to see if you can find the patent illustration for you chair. The patent search on Google is pretty user friendly. If you want to share a picture, I can help with that since I havemost of the patents saved.


  26. What a wonderful website! I have a folding sewing rocker purchased at auction in Ohio about 25 years ago (sadly, husband removed cover and tossed many years ago, I think it was a sling-seat at that time, but obviously not original). Now that we have retired, he got it out and reglued/repaired and refinished the frame. I am going to make a new seat and back for it and have been looking for something similar to see what I should do with it! 3 Picture at:

    Trying for one small shot:
    From February 13, 2012

  27. Dear Anna, I recently acquired two chairs very similar to the first one you have pictured above. The stamp on the back is “Made by the Readsboro Chair Mfg Co Readsboro (?) USA. The seats are missing and I’d like to repair them. Do you have any suggestions about where I can look to get directions? — Thanks! — Susan

  28. Hi Susan,
    How nice to find a pair! To replace the seats with reproduction carpet, I would suggest looking at Heirloom Family Weavers for an excellent source of carpet. If you want to try your hand at needlpoint seats, I would suggest taking a look at the Peterson’s Magazines available on Google Books. For the later option, I expect a stronger material underneith the needlepoint will be needed if the chairs are to be used.

  29. Thanks, Anna!—Susan

  30. Anna,
    I have a folding chair very similar to Vaile side x construction that you show on your site. However, it has “arm slopes” (slightly s-curved side pieces that are attached to the curved side piece that runs from the back-rest to the front floor and become the front leg. How could I find out more about this chair? It came from my Grandmother’s home and I am 57. It has thick canvas straps for the seat and on the back slatting as well – no carpet seat. The wood head rest has some tooled design on it. I’d like to find out more about it and have it “strengthened correctly as the back slats are slightly loose. Any suggestions?

  31. Hi Susanna,
    How nice to have your grandma’s chair. The shaping you describe sounds like something that shows up in Vaill’s chairs fairly often. On place you can learn more is by looking at patent illustrations. I now have some more trade catalog illustrations to look at.
    For strengthening, you will want a good antique furniture person in your area. Do you have a local museum to ask who they would use?

  32. Hi Anna,

    My E.W. Vaill Platform Rocker also has a paper sticker on the bottom, and I think it says #173A.
    It was my Great Grandparents chair. They were married in 1899 in Leominster, Ma.
    Somehow it made its way to Texas with me.

    I can’t find this exact chair anywhere.
    I think the cane, seat & back, was added somewhere down the line.

    Any ideas?


  33. Your mystery rocker was made around 1990, back before any of the quality repro folding chairs of today were available. They sold for about $20 IIRC at places like Pier One Imports and Joann Fabrics. As far as I know, they weren’t a repro of anything in particular. I recall two different colours for the tapestries, same pattern.

  34. A little more research tells me that the 1990 mystery rocker, which is plain and cheaply made, is loosely patterned after the Albert M. Lock & Sons rockers of 1929 which have carving on the crest board and are well made of good wood. The Lock rockers are patterned after the Collignon folding rockers patented 1868. They had a woven seat.

  35. Duchess,
    I am extreamly excited you identified the mystery chair and the connections. I’m reading through the links you sent me. I particularly like this one: His enjoyment of these chairs is just wonderful. The lines on the Collignon chairs are quite nice. The vertical turnings, the play off pillow back chairs and the lines of the top of the back and sides, all fit with what I’ve seen from Vaill and Hunzinger.
    Here is the 1869 patent with the design used for the rockers. Lock would have needed to pull the seat shape from somewhere else as it is not indicated in the patent. (also, this is not their earliest patent)
    This patent (issued in 1871) shows the construction and function of their base design. Notice how the simple slat back is Not in the list of chair designs for sale in the above link.
    It is so interesting to see how the functionality of the Collignon chair is carried through to the Lock chair, then mimiced in the 1990s chairs. In terms of reenacting appropriatness, it comes down to the rose carving. As many folding chair users include chairs that are made into the 70s, the functional aspects of this chair would be included in that span. The back design is destinctly 1920/30s.

  36. Hi Anna,
    I just came across your site. Thought you might like to see my Readsboro folding chair. It has been dated to between 1887 and 1913 by the Readsboro Historical Society. How would I send you a pic?

  37. I have yet to find the perfect seating. The closest seems to come from Heirloom Family Weavers, who makes reproduction ingrain carpets.

  38. Some do. I’m not an appraiser, so I can’t give values.

  39. Hi Cynthia,
    It sounds like you have a fun find.
    If you can upload your photos to something like Flicker or photobucket, you can link them here. I may be able to point you in the right direction on where to look to identify it. I can’t do values though.

  40. Thank you Anna I will do that later today when I get home from work! Thanks so much! 🙂

  41. Awesome! I will await your reply 🙂

  42. Hello Anna, I have a children’s folding rocking chair. It looks a bit like Marta Vincent’s little rocker. I found a green label that is a bit damaged, but this is what I can make of it.

    Pantentee and Manufactur
    Worcester, Mass
    Pantented July 18th 1876
    No 105 B.

    I would love to send you some pictures of the chair and label and would appreciate any information you could share with me.

  43. Gail,
    I would love to see photos. I can probably help you find the patent information and maybe some manufacturing info.

  44. Hello Anna, How do I attach photos?

  45. I emailed you so you can send them that way.

  46. The Benjamin Johns Harrison folding chair at the NYS museum pictured above was patented by Harrison and James Condie on July 17, 1866, # 56,410.

  47. I have an April 22, 1873 No. 78 E.W. Vaill carpet folding chair. Made of black walnut and still has original red flowered (with black inner trim) fabric. Very good condition! The head rest area is what looks to be a Greek or Roman revival ornate design. It still has the green manufacture label from Worcester Mass. Any idea as to its value or where I can find more about it? I have gone through almost every site on the internet and there is an advertisement poster in the Brooklyn museum of art with all of Vaill’s folding chairs but unless I actually go to the museum I can’t view the poster. I have yet to find a picture of this chair anywhere! I would appreciate any help you can give me! Thank you for your time and your blog! – Clarence Martell

  48. Thank you for the information you have. I am not in a position to offer advice on value.

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