Side Chair

Side Chair

c. 1808
Samuel Gragg, American, 1772-1855
Work Locations: Boston, MA
Shop of Samuel Gragg
Work Locations: Boston, MA
Active Dates: 1800-1830
Boston, MA
United States
side chair
Painted wood (ash, oak, maple, and beechwood)
The Harry I. Smookler Memorial Endowment Fund

Samuel Gragg, Side Chair, about 1808. Painted wood (ash, oak, maple, and beechwood); 33½ × 15¼ × 14¼ in. Manufactured by shop of Samuel Gragg, Furniture Warehouse, Boston. Denver Art Museum: The Harry I. Smookler Memorial Endowment Fund, 1988.13.

height: 33 1/2 in, 85.09 cm; width: 15 1/4 in, 38.735 cm; depth: 14 1/4 in, 36.195 cm
Architecture and Design
Architecture and Design

On August 31, 1808, Boston furniture maker Samuel Gragg received a patent for what he named an “elastic” chair. A startling innovation in its day, Gragg’s chair stretched the boundaries of bending wood. Single strips of wood were bent under steam pressure and then held or clamped against specially shaped forms to construct the chair’s continuous seat and back. Additional slats filled in the seat and followed the same sinuous curve. The flexible or “elastic” nature of these thin strips of wood provides the chair with a degree of movement not found in chairs constructed with traditional joinery techniques.

Gragg wanted his chairs to flex, but he also needed them to be sufficiently strong to hold the sitter’s weight. To solve this problem, he created the chair’s compound-curve design; that is, the seat and the back curve in two different directions. This sophisticated solution distributes the weight of the sitter more evenly across the entire frame of the chair. 

Known Provenance
Purchased 1988 from (Anthony A.P. Stuempfig Antiques), Philadelphia by the Denver Art Museum.
Exhibition History
  • "What Is Modern?" — Denver Art Museum, 10/30/2010 - 3/24/2013
  • “Check Out These Stems!” — Denver Art Museum, 6/1/2015 – 10/11/2015