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History of Adirondack Chairs

Adirondack. This is, believe it or not, an area of North America, in which the majestic animal known as the Moose is the most recognisable. The most iconic object of the region however is a chair. The eponymous Adirondack chairs are known for their gorgeous designs.

The history of the Adirondack chairs has humble beginnings in the town of Westport, upstate New York. The inventor of the chair, Mr Thomas Lee dwelled there in his home in the town. Lee came from a wealthy family and went to Harvard - he, however, dropped out of law school as he had a preference for working in nature.

He knew that a chair was needed that could withstand the rugged terrain and unpredictable nature of the Adirondack wilderness. The story goes that he wanted something that would be comfortable and balanced on everything from sandy terrain to a rugged hill.

Between the years 1900 to 1903, Lee worked on making this new chair. To get it right, he had his family members try the prototype chairs out before changing the design. Finally, Lee came up with a chair design similar to modern ones - with wide armrests, a high back and a slanted seat. The seat and back were each made from singular pieces of wood.

After he got the design of the Westport chair finalised, he met up with a friend Harry Bunnell, who himself had a wood workshop in town. The tunnel was concerned with the upcoming winter because there are not many supplies that year. Lee provided him with the design to Bunnell.

Bunnell had massive success with the design and patented it later on. While many stories show dismay at Bunnell for patenting this chair, Lee’s Great Great Grand nephew weighed in on the matter and said that Lee was already rich. He wasn't interested in making money from a chair business.

Over the years, the chairs have morphed and changed and have become the modern Adirondack chair we know and love today - here's how that happened!

The design change comes from the difficulty of making a lot of chairs from a single plank (that has to be knot-free! To make the construction process easier, different carpenters have innovated the original Westport chair design.

While both Westport chairs and Adirondack chairs feature very wide armrests, as well as high backs and slanted seats, the Adirondack is made from many planks of wood while Westport chairs are cut from a singular, knot-free plank.

In Canada, Westport chairs are known as Muskoka chairs, thanks to their use in the Muskoka Region of Canada.

Fast forward to 1938 and Irving Wolpin of New Jersey state acquired himself a patent for changing the design. This is described as a lawn chair, Wolpin’s chair had a similar slanted seat, and wide armrests of the Westport was made out of smaller slates of wood, but also had a rounded back and a contoured seat.

Wolpin’s variant is the most commonly replicated Adirondack chair that we know today.

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