The United States’ Founding Fathers Also Revolutionized Chairs


The two most widely recognized revolutionaries of the United States, save George Washington, are Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Jefferson was a reserved man, who struggled with public speaking, but his masterful penmanship earned him international acclaim. Benjamin Franklin was a genius jack-of-all-trades, who dabbled in almost every topic he could research, and often found himself adept in whatever field he chose to assert himself. Jefferson and Franklin were both political philosophers, scientists and inventors, and they both improved upon an invention that all humans use to support themselves—the chair.

The rocking chair was one Benjamin Franklin’s passions. Mr. Franklin did not make this lovable piece of furniture that can excite and relax simultaneously. It was already in use within the colonies when Franklin was born, though the rocking chair is often subtly slipped into his enormous list of inventions. Nevertheless, Benjamin Franklin did invent some modifications for the chair. Most notably, he added a fan that was powered by the rocking motion of the chair.

While Benjamin Franklin was merely a chair modifier, Thomas Jefferson was a true chair revolutionary. In the 1770s, before drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson ordered a simple Windsor chair, but what he did with the chair was groundbreaking for the future of office and school furniture—Jefferson put a swivel mechanism on his chair. Thus, the first swivel chair was born, allowing modern people to spin to their heart’s content when their bosses are not looking.

Written by C. Keith Hansley


  • The Autobiography and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin, edited by Kenneth Silverman. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.
  • American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

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