A Patent Folding Chair 

Okay, another chair. Chairs are a rather cumbersome thing to collect, especially when you don’t let anyone sit on them. I have been trying to behave and not randomly add to the collection. But, when I was flipping through the quasi-local yard and estate sales this morning, I saw a folding chair inline with many others. 

I was quite certain that by the time I got there it would either be gone, picked up by the early morning antique dealers, or so over priced I could not consider it. 

I was wrong on both accounts. 

It was there and Very affordable. (Once again, if I had a workshop, I would have come home with some easy projects for very low prices.)

There are many things to talk about with this chair. But, let’s jump ahead to what many are wondering. The dating. 

This is a Vaill chair from the 1870s. So, on answer to the question: This is a chair marketed to the public for civilian use in the parlor after the Civil War.  This chair has its green label still intact: 

Vaill’s initial patent:

Followed by a few changes three years later:

The next thing I think people may be thinking is “original seat!” Yes? 

Well, yes and no. Yes, this is a seat made just for patent folding chairs. No, this is not the seat and back this chair originally had. But, it is still pretty cool. The original seat would have wrapped around the whole front rail and further wrapped around the back rail. Looking at this seat, we see it wraps just to the underside of the front rail. The leather binding is machine stitched with two rows of stitches on either side with raw, untidy ends. This just isn’t the way the leather was treated. It also doesn’t have same feel as original binding leather. I suspect this is an early twentieth century replacement seat and back. These were made specifically to replace the worn, fifty years old seats and backs. I first learned of these when I found a chair where the replacement back was melted, being made of a synthetic blend. (I will add a link to those images if I can find them again) I do not see a spot that will allow me to fiber test the materials. 


I also do not think this is the second replacement seat. Look at the label again. I see holes where another seat was attached at some point. 

Now, let’s look at condition. 

At some point, someone added this back piece. While some chairs were upholstered front and back, I do not think this chair was. I need too peek closer to see if I will be removing this. The factors will be whether it is protecting or damaging the wood, and if the center bar needs care. 


This chair also has one of the most common wear or damage points I see. The upper corners of where the textiles are attached seem to get more pressure either from sitting or being moved. This is also a small area where repeated nailing causes the wood to splinter. 





One of the things that makes me happy to find this chair is that it is much like the chair I have been trying to strip the last few years. This has been an ongoing project, now in wait of a better space and tools.

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Published in: on August 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm  Comments (4)  

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is a beautiful, wonderful find! (Said in total envy, but sincere!). I can’t wait to see what you do’

  2. What a lucky find and it goes to someone who appreciates it too.

  3. I too found a similar piece years ago and was instantly enchanted. I’ll never forget the sensation of finally sitting in it after restoration. It felt as though it had been made just for me! Your commentary has further enlightened me and makes me appreciate my little companion all the more. Thank you.

  4. Being a folding chair addict myself, I can appreciate how tough it is to let them go, or the sigh you have when it’s overpriced and a dealer has no idea what it truly is. If only more LH folks would learn about furniture, especially chairs, we’d see fewer 1940s church chairs at events. Loved your notes. Now if I only made more time to go through all of mine and get them done (I’ve several in storage).


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