A William IV Mahogany and Black Leather Patent Reclining Library Chair by Robert Daws

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A William IV Mahogany Robert Daws Patent Reclining Armchair with integral footstool upholstered in buttoned black leather.

In 1827, Robert Daws was one of the first to patent a reclining mechanism for a chair. Three years before his competitor George Minter, his application was approved for, “Certain Improvements on Chairs or Machines Calculated to Encrease Ease and Comfort” (Patent Office 1827). The picture above shows the mechanism that was included within the patent for an ingenious spring loaded, ratchet system operated from underneath the armrest. This system appears on this piece and is in superb working order.

Daw’s chair were numerous in decorative design but are of the quality to have featured in Christopher Gilbert’s renowned publication, “The Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840”. J.C Loudon, the famous domestic style commentator and designer also gave mention of the chair within his hugely popular, “Encyclopaedia of Cottage, Farm and Villa Architecture & Furniture” of 1833 which saw numerous reprints throughout the following decades.

Loudon writes, “Figure 1913 is a view of Dawe’s reclining chair for an invalid: the position of the back of this chair can be varied at pleasure, and the projecting part in front can be elongated, or adjusted to any slope. When it is not wanted to be used as a reclining chair, the back can be fixed upright; and the front projection slid in, so as to produce the appearance of a common easy chair.” (1833, Loudon) It must be remembered that the term invalid was also regularly equated with sufferers of gout during this period.

This example remains in the same working order as it would have been when it appeared in Loudon’s publication. The chair, although manufactured in the 1830’s, bears the patent stamps to the back legs for 1827 and also maintains the original instructions that were affixed to the inside base rail. It reads in part.

“Manner of using R. Daws’s Patent Recumbent Easy Chair. A person while sitting in the chair may fix the back to any inclination by raising the spring beneath that part of the arm where the hand rests, and while holding up both springs, press or draw the arms backward or forward to the desired situation; and having loose the spring both at the same time, the back of the chair will be found perfectly safe to recline against. The back may also be raised from behind without touching the springs, or by a person at each side, the dress having been first removed out of the way of the motion of the elbows.”

Newly upholstered, this uncommon chair is a fine example of the early nineteenth century ingenuity that swept furniture manufacture of the period and is in complete working order. Daws traded from 17 Margaret St, Cavendish Square, London until 1839.

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