A long time ago in Montana….
Once again I find myself relying on my friend’s good memory to try to work my way backwards through the years. Michelle is around 45 years old. So, as her great-grandmother used to sit in this charming little chair when she was just a little girl, that must have been some time back in the late 1800s.
In those days the chair was new, and it lived in Montana in the north-western USA, close to the border with Canada.
The family earned most of its income from raising cattle.
The state of Montana has many forests and is home to numerous different species of trees – spruce and pine, larch, aspen, birch, alder and maple to name but a few.
It’s a good guess that, wherever it was made, this little chair was fashioned from a proud, tall pine tree.
The stain on the seat betrays the fact that what we now know as diapers didn’t exist when great grandma was still just a toddler. People had to make do with whatever was available – an old square of linen, for example, that was folded into a triangle, maybe with a little moss stuffed in place between the layers. This would then be held in place with a pair of knitted pants known as ”soakers”.
Cloth diapers were in common use until the mid-20th century, when firms began to manufacture the first disposable diapers.
The sweeping curves of the armrests give the chair a special character that, together with the flat “sticks” in the backrest, makes it a ready focus of attention.
The sticks in the backrest are shaped in a way that, for me at least, bears more than a passing resemblance to the famous Danish furniture designer Hans Wegner’s celebrated “Peacock Chair”. I suspect that this is an extra comfortable shape for the user’s back.
Chairs are, as we know, symbols of power. You have only to think of the thrones of monarchs and popes, of confessional stools, academic chairs (a subject of particular topical relevance in Sweden just now … ), children’s high chairs and the like.
As a child embarks on its journey through life, a high chair is a useful thing to have and one way of diminishing the distance to the grown-up world. Thus can the chair rightly be said to be an important attribute to our development as human beings – even from our very earliest years.
Gun Bjerkander Handberg
Notes from the editor:We are delighted to announce that a final book in the Please Be Seated series is in full swing by the author of the blog, Gun Bjerkander Handberg. The book is due to go to print this autumn and will be another wonderful collection of historic and contemporary chair tales, some take from the blog and some completely new. You can order the first two books online from most books sellers.