The History Of The Adirondack Chair: The Complete Timeline (2022 Updated)
Many yards, restaurants, and other outdoor settings sport many Adirondack chairs. This icon piece of furniture graces all sorts of settings in America and other parts of the world. But rarely do people wonder about where it originated and how it became such a popular furniture piece.
The information below traces the origins of the Adirondack chair back to the inventor. It also explores the rich journey to make it a successful-selling product. It will also cover modern variations of the Adirondack chair.
But first, read about the basic information of the Adirondack chair, including some of the advantages it offers over other types of furniture.
What Is An Adirondack Chair?
The Adirondack chair is an outdoor recliner chair. The design sees a backward-sloping seat with wide armrests and a tall slatted back. This classic design offers good support for the back and bottom.
Adirondack chairs have short legs; thus, they sit very low to the ground. The overall design is the best for lounging outdoors, especially when paired with footrests and ottomans. Some manufacturers fit Adirondack chairs with cushions and headrests to make them more comfortable.
Advantages Of The Adirondack Chair
Some of the advantages of this lounging chair include:
- They offer support. The chair’s design sees a contoured seat that provides extra support for the back of your knees. This is ideal for enhancing comfort and preventing your legs from falling asleep.
- They have wide armrests for drinks and food. The chair has wide armrests that allow users to balance a plate of food or a drink. It is a convenient design.
- They are versatile. Colorful Adirondack chairs are easy to spot in multiple outdoor settings. End consumers can easily purchase Adirondack chair sets to match themes or desirable colors. Additionally, the designs are easy to customize.
- They are long-lasting. Depending on the base material and maintenance needs, many Adirondack chairs are long-lasting. They may be expensive upfront, but they offer great value for money in the long run.
- They are classy. The overall design is very classy and ideal for all types of outdoor use.
Who Invented The Adirondack Chair?
Thomas Lee, a native of Massachusetts, invented the Adirondack chair. Like all good inventions, it started with necessity. The exciting story started in Westport, New York, in the early 1900s.
Lee was born to a wealthy family, and they owned a home in the charming Westport, near Lake Champlain and surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains. The home in Westport was a regular vacation spot for the Lee family.
Thomas loved the area so much that he dropped out of Havard to work in nature, feeling most at home in the Adirondack Mountains. But the idea for the chair came to him during a summer vacation in their Westport home.
They had Victorian furniture in the property, and Lee was unsatisfied with their design, durability, and comfort. Therefore, he challenged himself to design a chair that could handle the terrain of the Adirondack Mountains while retaining comfort and durability.
Lee’s ultimate goal was to create a chair that felt comfortable and balanced on every terrain, including hilly and sandy terrain. So he began working on prototypes.
The Design Process
Between 1900 and 1903, Thomas Lee worked on multiple prototypes till he finalized his design. He chose to work with knot-free slabs of eastern hemlock, which were in abundance within the area. The evergreen tree is low-resin and sturdy, ideal for his experiments.
Over the years, Lee tinkered with multiple designs. He tested each prototype with family members, adjusting it to improve the final design. Finally, reports say that he settled on an ideal design in 1903.
The favored design had 11 wood pieces that forged a chair with a low slanted seat, high back, low stance, a small footstool, and wide armrests. It was a simpler design than the prevalent Victorian furniture back then.
Additionally, the chairs offered a lot more space than people were accustomed to. The wide armrests also offered excellent support for standing since the chair was very low. Lee named his invention ‘Westport Chair.’
Now To Build And Market The Chairs
Build the Chairs
Building and marketing any new product is the most tedious task. But Lee did not take it upon himself to bring this chair to life.
You see, Lee was dedicated to his many business ventures and hobbies located in multiple communities. Therefore, despite his love for his Westport home, he had no plans to make roots in the area. Therefore, he went to his friend Harry Bunnell with the chair design.
Bunnell was a carpenter with a shop near the Westport Fairgrounds looking for a new revenue stream to take him through the upcoming winter months. Lee’s design came at the right moment when he encouraged Bunnell to make the chair as he had no plans for manufacture.
So Bunnell started making the chairs. Reports say that Bunnell made the chairs using Western hemlock. It is a lightweight softwood that is surprisingly strong and shock-resistant. It has a fine texture, thanks to the straight grain. Many carpenters will tell you that it works like pine.
Bunnell also reportedly used hickory, a type of hardwood. Hickory wood is tough and many manufacturers in the early centuries used it to make carriage wheels, ladders, home construction items, and spokes. Many manufacturers currently use it for home decor, flooring, furniture, tool handles, sporting goods such as bats, and cabinetry.
Refine the Design
The Westport chair was a hit, and Bunnell received many orders locally over the next few months. Realizing this, he refined the design by making it less wide. Additionally, he removed the footstool.
In 1904, Bunnell filed for a patent for his Westport chair design, receiving it in April. He did this without the knowledge of his friend Lee. However, even after finding out, Lee never sought any legal action to secure rights as the original creator of the chair.
Now, this would easily paint Bunnell negatively, and many claim that he got away with theft. But interviews with a descendant of Lee revealed that Thomas Lee was already very wealthy and had no interest in mass-producing the chair.
Over the years, reports concluded that Lee gave the design to Bunnell wholeheartedly, and he had no problem with the patent.
Therefore, the next 20 years were prosperous for Bunnell. He produced the Westport chair, stamping his patent on the back of each product. Its popularity increased due to its durability and high comfort level.
But with the increase in popularity came competition from other carpenters attempting to improve the design.
Birth Of The Adirondack Chair
Bunnell tinkered with multiple alternative designs for special use of the Westport chair. For example, he considered a version of the chair with a bedpan inside the seat for people with limited mobility.
Local competitors of Bunnell also started selling a variation of his original design. The variation saw a slatted design which buyers loved. Competitors tweaked the design because they had challenges mass-producing the chair from a single knot-free plank.
The streamlined process made manufacturing easy; thus, it was more affordable and readily available for sale.
New Jersey inventor Irving Wolpin successfully beat all other inventors to the name ‘Adirondack Chair’ more than 30 years later, in February 1938. Wolpin successfully patented his version of the seat as a low chair made from several thin wood slats, with wide armrests, a contoured seat, and a high back.
The name stuck, and the design’s popularity spread beyond hillside areas, securing its reputation as an iconic piece of outdoor furniture. Wolpin’s Adirondack chair is currently the most commonly replicated design.
Adirondack Chairs Today
Like all fantastic inventions, the Adirondack Chair has undergone slight variations to make it more appealing, durable, and comfortable. For starters, some of the best Adirondack chairs come with seat and back cushions to enhance their appearance and comfort.
One of the significant alterations made to Adirondack chairs is the materials manufacturers use to make them. Today manufacturers use:
Teak is a good wood option for outdoor Adirondack chair manufacture. Builders love teak because it is durable and resilient. This hardwood is not easy to scratch. Additionally, it holds well against weather conditions, making it a better choice than pine, oak, and bamboo.
Unfortunately, this means that it is also pricey. Additionally, it only comes in one color, which you will have to maintain with regular care. Still, some people love the aesthetic impact of teak for an Adirondack chair set.
Aluminum Adirondack chairs are not very popular, but some love metal. This lightweight metal is highly durable, making it a favorite among manufacturers. Additionally, it is resilient, so it does not dent or bend easily.
Aluminum is surprisingly resistant to many weather conditions. And it does not rust thanks to the protective coating. However, lightweight construction makes it susceptible to strong winds. And since it only comes in one color, it is not a versatile option.
Additionally, some users have said that aluminum is not a comfortable option for outdoor furniture, considering competing materials. However, it is inexpensive and ideal for those on a budget.
● Poly lumber
Poly lumber came into the scene as two friends added their names to the history of the Adirondack chair. In 1990, high school buddies Doug Rassi and Mark Philabaum founded Polywood Furniture.
The friends had the idea to use recycled materials to create high-density plastic outdoor furniture. The first weather-resistant pieces they created were Adirondack patio chairs. The company grew as more people started adopting poly furniture outdoor sets. The company now produces 16 different styles of Adirondack chairs.
Poly Adirondack chairs beat wood and metal in many ways. For starters, it offers excellent resistance against weather conditions. Recycled plastic Adirondack chairs are resistant to rain and moisture. The water does not penetrate, meaning they are highly resistant to mold and water damage.
Poly Adirondack chairs are also heavy, so they can resist harsh winds. Moreover, they do not fade, warp or crack due to hot and dry weather conditions. Poly lumber is also resistant to insect damage, and best of all, it does not require frequent or demanding maintenance.
Poly Adirondack chairs are pricier, but they are a worthy long-term investment. The furniture comes in multiple colors, so you can get everything between white plastic Adirondack chairs and ombre Adirondack chairs.
● Injection Molded Plastic
Injection-molded plastic is an inexpensive outdoor furniture option. However, it is considered a temporary solution for outdoor furniture because it is not high quality. Still, it is not a bad option for people who don’t mind temporary furniture.
Injection mold Adirondack chairs are easy to maintain since they only need a damp cloth and regular dish soap. However, they are also lightweight and therefore susceptible to harsh winds. They also face and lose color quickly.
But it’s not all bad since they come in various options that allow matching themes and color schemes.
Fun Facts About Adirondack Chairs
Anf finally, a walk-through time would not be complete without a few fun facts about Adirondack chairs. The most interesting ones include:
- Canadians call Adirondack chairs ‘Muskoka chairs’. The name comes from the Muskoka cottage region, a popular summer vacation spot for Ontarians. Therefore, do not go asking for Adirondack chairs in Canada.
- There are well over 20 designs for Adirondack chairs in production. And since people are continually improving, there are bound to be more designs and variations.
- There is a giant Adirondack chair in North High Bridge Park, Minnesota. The ‘Green Chair’ is a large art piece originally built-in 1995. But it was destroyed by the weather in 2002. The current ‘Green Chair’ was made in 2002 by Joel Sisson. It weighs over 2,500 pounds and also rocks the bright green color.
We are particularly drawn to poly Adirondack chairs because we love their resistance and durability. That is why we manufacture high-quality HDPE Adirondack chairs. With our services, you can become a trusted poly Adirondack chair supplier.
We provide customizations and special requests such as an Adirondack chair with ottoman, Adirondack patio chairs, and even an Adirondack lounger chair. Therefore, come for our affordable prices, and stay for our efficiency.