Antique Morris chair Hardware
I have collected here all the orignal antique Morris chair hardware of which I have pictures. Some of these pieces are from the reference collection that I own. Others are photographs that I have borrowed (stolen) from Ebay auctions, Craig's list postings and other sources. One of my small goals here is to try to establish a few terms that can be used to describe the various pieces of antique Morris chair hardware that exist. I do not believe that there is any other source that has undertaken this task. If you know of any other attempt to build a taxonomy of antique Morris chair parts, I would be grateful if you would let me know so that I can align my terminology with other sources. If you have an antique Morris chair that has some original hardware that is not pictured here, I will add it to this site if you will email me pictures of it to me at email@example.com. I am not an expert in the area of antique furniture and if I have made any errors here that a real expert notices, I hope that expert would let me know.
Quite a bit of the Morris chair hardware seems to me to have been made by a few companies and sold to people who made the chairs. A few companies made their own hardware, but, as you can imagine, the casting, milling and stamping of metal is an operation that is quite different form woodworking. Where I know the names of the hardware makers, I have noted it below. Where hardware was patented, I have also given the patent number. If you are interested in any of these patents, they are available by going to Google Patents and entering the patent number. The makers of what I believe to be the most common pieces of Morris chair hardware have so far eluded me. These are the first cast iron back rack and the first cast iron pintel hinge pictured below. Based upon the frequency with which I have seen identical castings of these two specific items on chairs from many different makers, these could have been cast in, literally, the hundreds of thousands in a foundry or two somewhere. I have not been able to find out anything about them. I have to be careful not to let my craziness about these chairs become Captain Ahabish in the search for these foundries.
Morris chairs are generally defined as wooden chairs with a reclining back. Often, but not always, the seat cushions are loose.
There are two general classes of antique Morris chair: the Mission and the Traditional. The Mission type, one example of which appears to the right, was made popular after 1904 by Stickley and continues to be available from many manufacturers today. The Mission chairs often had simple hinges and wooden pegs supporting the backs, so the hardware was less complicated.
|The Traditional version generally has serpentine shapes derived from nature and often the wood is machine or hand carved in some way. For example, many Traditional chairs had carved paw feet on the front legs. These chairs were most popular from about 1890 to 1920. The Traditional chairs were made in the hundreds of thousands by perhaps as many as a hundred different makers, to venture a very wild guess. They were often low-priced production furniture but could also range upward to very high-end pieces. The hardware on this page is the hardware typical of the Traditional type of Morris chair. The beautiful example to the left happens to be a reproduction made by--you guessed it--me. Want one? Go to my homepage.|
|The back racks on a Morris chair are the pieces of hardware that permit the back to recline to various angles. Here are some of them, not in any particular order|
|These guys are probably the most common back racks that there were. They are cast iron and in some cases they were gilded to look like brass. Check yours with a magnet if you wonder if they are really brass. The one at the left was probably the most common of the four and must have been cast in the hundreds of thousands. The larger version of it is more rare. The hook-top version, third from left, was also used by many chair makers. There is a larger version of that as well. To give you a sense of scale, the back rack to the far left is 8" long. It is the one that I used as a pattern in having new back racks cast for the chairs I make.|
|Here are two other closed back racks. Although I do not own either of these, I believe that the one on the left is gilded cast iron. I have seen quite a few rusty iron back racks that appear to be identical to these. Of course, I might be wrong as the one shown here may have been cast in brass or bronze. There is an eyeball at the top that makes it look like a snake or other reptile. The one on the right looks more like real bronze, but I do not own it and I do not know for sure. I wonder why it has that bump just above the dowel? Perhaps a broken off tooth that has been filed?|
|These two slightly unusual back racks were designed for chairs that had a straight vertical face on the top part of the back leg. The one on the left is made of cast iron. The one on the right is made of bronze. I have never seen one of the bronze ones on a chair so I cannot explain the lower right-angled attachment.|
|Unlike the back racks pictured above, these two are open, rather than closed. The closed ones hold the bar against the back leg of the chair so that if the bar is accidentally knocked off the hooks, the chair back will not fall all the way to the floor. In general, closed back racks were more common on Morris chairs. The back rack on the left in this picture has a botanical design of vines and leaves cast into it. It is made of brass and is quite soft and easily damaged. The one on the right is smooth. The botanical one was not particularly common on Morris chairs but much more so than the smooth one. The smooth one is so rare that it may have been specifically cast for the chairs one one company.|
|These guys were both designed to go on a horizontal surface, probably the tail ends of the arms of the chair. I am assuming that the top one, made of cast iron, is really a Morris chair back rack. I have never seen one of these on a chair so it might be something else. The bottom one, however, was the underslung back rack used on the Larkin 1898 "Chatauqua" Morris chair. It was fastened under the tail of arm with a screw up into the underside of the arm and another screw into the vertical top of the back leg of the chair. These are cast iron and were gilded. This was similar to one used by Heywood/Wakefield. Similar but not identical.|
|This back rack was used on some of the Morris chairs that were sold through the Sears & Roebuck mail order catalog from at least 1905 to 1917. I do not know if Sears used other types on some chairs. It is a rather thin piece of steel with hooks stamped out of it and bent to hold the chair back bar. It is not very substantial and I have seen two of them that have one or more of the punched steel hooks broken off. Otherwise, the Sears chairs tended to be elaborate and they looked as if quite a bit of work went into making them. There is some evidence that other makers used these back racks. Indeed, I was sent a picture of a Larkin 110 Mission Style Morris chair that was fitted with these. I have never seen a 110 so I do not know if they were original to that chair. People move things.|
|Morris chair hinges were the topic of several patents around the turn of the 20th Century. I have found some of them, but I am sure that there are more. The goal was to have a hinge that would allow the hinge to swing through its normal range of reclining but that also allowed the back to be easily detatched from the chair at the hinge point without having to pull screws.|
|This cast iron hinge was in very common use in Morris chairs. The pintel on the male part of the hinge has a small dog cast onto the end. As you can see the hole in the female is pear shaped, The dog part of the pintel will go though that hole in one position, usually when the back was parallel to the floor. In all other positions, the hinge pieces are locked together so that the back cannot accidentally come loose. Being cast iron, these are brittle and many of them were broken by accident.|
|Although the cast iron pintel hinge was very common on chairs from many different makers, I have been so far unable to find out who made it. I have seen a lot of these because, as noted above, the females break and I make replacements. I believe that the ones I have seen were all cast at the same foundry. They all have the words PAT APP FOR cast into the side of the male part of the hinge. I have been unable to find that patent application by searching on Google Patents.|
|I don't know why I show this thing. It is a smiple backflap hinge. This one is on a Larkin chair. The Larkins came apart for shipping by removing the front and back stretcher from the sides. Often these were held together with wingnuts. The back was affixed to the rear stretcher with this hinge, but that did not matter as the chair was reduced in size by removing the sides. Many other Morris chair hinges sought to permit an easy unhitching of the back from the rest of the chair for ease in moving and shipping.|
|These hinges were made by the W.P. Seng Company of Chicago, US Patent No. 770395. The bite out of the side is a defining characteristic. Seng made no chairs, but made hardware for the furniture trade. Many Morris chairs from different makers are fitted with Seng hinges. They are stamped out of steel and were probably quite economical to make. It looks as if the screw holes might have been punched rather than drilled because the metal is up-set beside the holes.|
|This guy is like the Seng but without the bite out of the side. The dog on the pintel looks identical. It was formed by pinchng the metal when it wa red hot. I wonder if these were an earlier or later product of the Seng Co. This hinge was on a chair that had the Sears-type punched out steel back racks: a Larkin No. 110 Mission Morris chair (1908 to 1910 at least).|
|This hinge is also somewhat similar to the Seng in being stamped steel. However, instead of locking on via a dog on the end of the pintel, the pintel has flat sides and will only slip in when it is in one position. As long as the chair back fits tightly or the pintels are installed facing in opposite directions, the female will be unable to slide off the male. This was on a Streit chair, but I do not know if all, or if only, Streits featured this hinge.|
|This hinge was only used on Heywood Brothers Wakefield Morris chairs, as far as I know. It was extensively used on a very popular child sized Morris chair that they made and I have also seen it on a couple of adult HB/W Morris chairs.|
|This is an odd thing. It is quite like the cast iron hinges pictured a few cells above. Rather than the female being pear shaped to accept the dog on the male hinge part, the female is "C" shaped. In my opinion, this would make the hinge even more fragile. I have only ever seen one set of these and one female was broken. Now even this pair has gone to the great Morris chair in the sky: it was lost in the mail when I returned it to the owner. I made her new ones that looked like the old ones, but I still feel bad about it.|
|This hinge was made by the C.L. Greilick Company of Traverse City, Mich. US Patent No. 877766. Greilick made Morris chairs and I presume that these hinges were only found on Greilick chairs. I have no evidence for this. However anyone with a chair that uses this hinge might want to guess that the chair, as well as the hinge were made by Greilick. As well as making furniture, Greilick was in the lumber milling business. The company went into receivership in 1918 but continued to operate after that.|
|The hinge below is quite similar to the Greilick patented hinge just above it. One difference is that the male part of the hinge is a solid T shaped piece of metal, as can be seen in the patent drawing. This hinge is probably a product of the Royal Chair Co. I say that it is "probably" Royal because it was patented by Jerrold F. Walton, a prolific inventor of Morris chair reclining mechanisms, many of which ended up on Royal chairs. It is US Pat No. 1137246|
|This is a not-very-good picture of a hinge that is on a chair made by S.A. Cook and Co. I suspect that this hinge is only found on Cook chairs.|
|Here is a set of these special S.A. Cook & Co hinges. I made the male and female on the left to replace broken and missing parts. If you look closely at the female, there is a little insert inside of it. That is a loose piece and would be very difficult for me to make. If you take off broken Cook hinges HANG ONTO THIS LITTLE INSERT. If you want me to make some of these for you, I can seemingly do so. If you have broken ones and you have the pieces, let's consider brazing them back together. It is cheaper and easier. Email me.|
|This is an odd one. I have only ever seen one of these, and that was in this picture. It is a cast iron hinge and the piece that is on the back is broken. I do not know what that piece looked like but it may have been similar to the "c" shaped hinge in the picture a little ways up this page.|
Non back rack relcining mechanisms
If the hinges called out the creative powers of people at the turn of the last century, that activity was thrown into deep shadow by the various methods that were devised to have a Morris chair recline. The back rack was the most common, the simplest, and perhaps the cheapest. However, that was not good enough for people of an inventive turn. Several companies seemed to have their own staff inventors. In contrast, I get a feeling from searching the patents that many reclining devices were devised by amateur inventors. I believe that many of the ones that were patented may never have been mass produced. I have not shown those below, because that is another broad ranging topic and one must set some boundaries somewhere.
My search through the old patents suggests that The Holy Grail of the sitting room chair--Morris types and others--was to have a chair that would turn into a bed. Many chair patents were devoted to attempts to do this. I have not included these here because 1. I believe that many of them were never actually produced and 2. my personal definition of a Morris chair does not include these bed wannabes. There is a very boring Masters Degree thesis waiting to be written about them.
In the interest of sparing electrons for higher purposes, I have ganged reclining mechanisms that were actually fitted to production chairs into one picture. Where I know the patent number or the maker I have noted it.
|I have not described all of the various reclining mechanisms in detail because that, also, is a bridge too far for this site. For example, a book could be written about the various patented designs used over the years by the Royal Chair Company. Their goal was to make the chair recline by pushing a button. They achieved that goal by at least 1900 (US Patent No. 648715) but they would not settle there. They were still working on it, many versions later, in 1929 (US Patent No. 1512834). If you want to see some of these patents, Google Patent the numbers found on this later Royal tag.|
This page is a work in progress and I will tidy it up and add more stuff as soon as I can.