Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The History of the Recliner: Back Pain Relief on the Rise

The recliner has long since been a staple to the American home. They’re comfortable, offer a slick way to put up one’s feet, and can be called upon on even the worst of days. Folks search for years to find the perfect fit, then spend evenings leaded back with a newspaper or a TV remote.

But once upon a time, chairs sat at 90-degree angles.

People either sat in a chair, or when it was time for relaxing, they laid down. Those were the options and there wasn’t much in-between, if any. But in 1850, the world saw its first chair/bed combo in the form of a French “reclining camp bed.” Equipped with padded armrests, the model could easily switch between chair and bed, thus eliminating the need for extra furniture. Soon an American version was also released, and was made to hold one’s book or papers for easy reading.

Decades later, in 1928, a set of cousins got a patent for a wooden recliner, an event that led to the creation of La-Z-Boy. (Though the first recliner is said to have been owned by Napoleon III.) Then in 1930, the cousins, Edward Knabush and Edwin Shoemaker, added mechanical reclining features and swapped their wooden chair for one that was upholstered.

Next for the recliner came new engineering, created by Daniel F. Caldemeyer, after his work in the U.S. Air Force. Caldemeyer also added features such as the footrest, heating, and massage, before patenting the world’s first entertainment center. His new reclining model was so efficient by way of use and kinetics that NASA used it for its astronaut seats in Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo.

President Lyndon Johnson even received 50 Caldemeyer’s recliners as a Christmas gift from the Secret Service, one of which he used to recover from gall bladder surgery. [NPR]

While today’s options are certainly more advanced by way of fabrics and storage, their reclining features still stems from these same mechanics. With just a few breakthroughs, those everywhere can enjoy their favorite chair … now with the ability to relax and recline.