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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Ware’

The Adirondack Chair Revisited

In Adirondacks, Daily Munge, History & Heritage on June 29, 2011 at 7:30 am

Adirondack R&R in one of many versions of the Adirondack Chair

“To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Harry C. Bunnell, a citizen of the United States, residing at Westport, in the county of Essex and the State of New York, have invented a new and useful Improvement in Chairs. … ” So begins patent number 794,777, dated July 18, 1905, in reference to what we commonly refer to as the Adirondack Chair. With its signature slanted back and wide armrests, the recognizable profile of this outdoor recliner has become a trademark of summer in America. Despite the patent filed over a hundred years ago, though, Harry Bunnell, a carpenter and shop owner, was not actually the one who created the chair’s design. (via NYTimes.com.)

Image from original patent for the Adirondack Chair

Image from original patent for the Adirondack Chair

In Monday’s Rosslyn Roundup I included a link to a post about the Adirondack Chair, invented by Thomas Lee in 1903 but copied and adapted by countless carpenters since. A welcome surprise then to see the New York Times’ The 6th Floor blog tackling the same timely topic today. In “Who Made That Adirondack Chair?” Hilary Greenbaum highlights Harry C. Bunnel’s decision to patent the design actually invented by Thomas Lee allegedly without his permission. A case of vintage Adirondack snark? Perhaps. But even in Hilary’s telling, Lee seems to have been gracious and let the matter go, permitting his friend to produce the chairs for profit for a quarter century.

As luck would have it, I’m friendly with several of Thomas Lee’s descendants to still reside in (or visit) Westport — our Lake Champlain neighbor to the south —  where the original Westport chairs (aka Adirondack chairs) were invented and produced. I’ll have to ask if there’s any more to this story, perhaps passed down through the generations. In fact, Bruce Ware, the realtor who showed us property for several years and ultimately brokered the deal for us when we purchased Rosslyn is directly or indirectly related to Thomas Lee. I’ll see what I can find out…

If you know any more about the history of the Adirondack chair, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

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