Revisiting the Deck Chair

Revisiting the Deck Chair

Kimber Watson
Jun 9, 2011

Ever since I picked up a vintage deck chair towards the end of last summer, I confess, I've become a bit obsessed with them. I mean, what's not to love? Simple design and fabrication, a multitude of fabric choices and there's even a bit of history behind them. But the latter was where I was drawing a blank. And since we're turning our attention to furniture this month, I decided a little research was in order.

Passengers on a voyage in the '50s from the Frank Haaljmeijer Collection via Culture 24.

From what I've been able to dig up, the deck chair was designed by a British businessman by the name of John Moore and patented in 1886. By the early 1900s, they were being used as seating on transatlantic steamers (the Titanic was said to have 600 of them, although only a few survived). Knowing this, it's easy to guess the origin of the name deck chair. It was meant for leisure on a cruise ship's deck; easy to transport and easy to stack. Originally, the deck chair could only be locked in one position. Eventually though, the chairs were equipped with supports for multiple sitting positions, allowing one to recline, sometimes they even came equipped with a removable footrest.

While the ship's deck might be how they got their start, soon they began popping up on beaches, piers, parks and gardens. There's even a phrase coined, "rearrange the deck chairs" or "rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic". Both imply that a person is overly concerned with trivialities during a time of crisis.

Modern deck chairs by Thornback & Peel

If this little bit of history has piqued your interest in owning a deck chair of your own, Thornback & Peel and Gallant & Jones both carry modern versions of the classic deck chair. Though a quick search will turn up a multitude of other stockists. Of course, you can always scour flea markets, antique shops, or Ebay if you're looking for a vintage one. And for any of my Baltimore neighbors, if you're in the market, I just spotted two in the window of Avenue Antiques!

Images: 1, Isacivic.org; 2, The Postcard Shop; 3, deckchair stripes; 4, Gallant & Jones; the rest as linked above.

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