eames product info: product histories

How much was that?...

If you had the good taste to purchase an Eames wood dining chair in the 1950s, it would have set you back $35.50--about the cost of four new tires for your car. When they first came out, they were intended for indoor/outdoor use and were coated in clear melamine for this purpose. The original projected budget price was supposed to have been under $20 each!

Another item that might have been on the Young Modern's shopping list: Eames folding dining table for H. Miller - $95

Eames mystery solved

secretarial pivot chairA reader writes that she has an Eames fiberglass side chair with two small upholstered cushions attached to the seating shell by means of a few screws through the bottom and back sides. "It looks odd but original" she stated. Well, it is original from Herman Miller, offered in the late 50's as the Secretarial Plastic Pivot Chair. secretarial pivot chairThis re-design was a direct result from requests from major corporations who had purchased vast amounts of the original and under-padded fiberglass shell chairs only to hear major complaints from their secretarial pools whose members were not comfortable sitting on the all fiberglass chair from 9 to 5.

Eames on 3 legs

Q."My Eames dimple coffee table has only 3 legs and looks original, where did the other leg go?"

A.Your three-legged Charles Eames coffee table was designed for the Herman Miller Company in 1946 and offered in the line for little over a year. An example of the Eames' early work, it was amazing that they offered it for sale at all. Nobody trusts a 3-legged table or chair. A three-legged table might save on materials, construction and shipping, all very noble goals when it came to post war furniture designs. One of the holy grails of design is to come up with a truly stable 3-legged table or chair, and the Eames office tried and abandoned designs for each. But not before Herman Miller tried to market this 3 legged model. Your example has the floating steel ring connecting the three legs together for stability, but it was still tipsy! The one you have has an Evans /Eames/Miller label, which documents it's very early production.

A letter from Herman Miller on Eames Chair prices

November 1, 1956


You will find attached a new price list on ALL Eames Chairs. This list is effective November 1, 1956. In cases where new prices are lower than old prices, the new prices will be honored beginning at once.

Some quantity prices have been changed to make these chairs available at competitive, contract prices. You can now purchase 100 chairs at the same cost per chair which used to apply to orders of 250 or more.

The DSS and DSS-1 chairs are now $1.00 per chair lower in quantites of 100 or more.

The upholstered wire chairs have a much improved plastic foam pad. This pad has a longer life than foam rubber. The wire will not imprint the pad. Also, the pad is now upholstered on BOTH sides and is a great improvement over the old pads which were backed with jute. Although the price is higher as a result of these improvements, we are sure you will find it much more saleable.

--Jim Hart

1 to 5
6 to 99
100 +
A Dolly for stacking chairs - 28.00
B Dolly for stacking chairs - 46.00

The brief history of Eames chair tips...

The earliest of the Eames plywood production chairs had few feet design issues and presented no real problem in this regard, in fact the small feet on the LCW and DCW acted as the protector of the plywood leg ends in several ways. Perched on four small metal tack heads, the tack heads facilitated sliding the chair on the floor and also act to elevate the chair just enough to protect the plys of the wood legs from chipping off when dragged on some rougher flooring surfaces.

The early metal framed plywood chairs presented the major recognition that a chair tip was an honest visual part of the function of the chair and of concern to the consumer. The first tip was a simple gray solid rubber washer attached to the bottom of the metal leg with a washer and machine screw, in fact, like several of the early connecting parts and metal tubing parts of the Eames tables and chairs, this gray rubber bumper was borrowed from the pluming parts industry. The ability of this simple rubber tip to be torn off while sliding the chair, necessitated redesigning the chair tip for better functionality, the reevaluation being a common step in the overall design process at the Eames Office. The result was the use of the black rubber and stainless steel "Domes of Silence", a push on model of a smooth sliding chair tip or glide, acting like a more developed version of the tack head used on the all wood chair. It was a new glide with the look and materials exactly matching those used in the rest of the chair frame. A small, slightly rounded stainless steel tip designed to glide silently over most flooring surfaces, thereby doing away with noisy chairs sliding in schools, offices and lecture halls. A very small detail, but of equal importance to the design process at the Eames Office.

These new slide-on boot tips were again replaced in the early 50s with another improved one. This time the design answer was to permanently attach the glide to the chair leg, first with a shorter glide that was force fitted on with a knurled stud, when this made the replacement off broken feet impossible for the consumer, they again redesigned the glide to screw in and out for easier replacement by the owner. These same tips, but larger, were used on most every piece of Eames designed furniture including Cabinets, the 671 Lounge Chair with ottoman and the Stephens Speaker cabinets. Once the Eames Office designed their new fiberglass chairs and the variety of new chair bases that evolved with it, the issue of glides or tips was confronted again. The 1950 wood dowel legged chair was the last Eames chair with wood elements almost touching the floor. Learning from the rusting and staining of the metal tacks used earlier on the wooden chairs, the Eames office chose to use a clear round plastic tipped foot. Made at a local factory in Santa Monica, near the Eames Office, The tips were made of a small nail with a pattered nail head cast into a clear acrylic button. This not only solved the rust issue but had the added visual benefit of making the foot element of the chairs design almost visually disappear.

The other new bases were all made of metal tubing or resistance welded wire rods and presented another evolution in chair tip design at the Eames Office. The first production tip for the new "Eiffel Tower" wire bases was a "Dome of Silence" glide that bolted though a hole in the bent leg end that formed a foot for the bolt. This glide was followed a few years later with a black rubber and steel foot that pushed-on the ball end of the rod legs, this tip was self leveling for more comfort on slightly uneven surfaces. And again in the mid fifties, this model glide, on the wire bases, was replaced by the all new and all white nylon self-leveling glide.

In 1955, the replacement of the first issue heavy solid metal tubing x-bases that used the "Domes of Silence" with the new H-bases made from hollow steel tubing meant that new feet were needed again. The first foot tried was the same first issue slide on boot glide but with a small plastic tip inserted into the tubing end to provide better footing for the boot glide. The next year new black rubber and steel self leveling tips, resembling the early Eiffel Tower self-leveling tip, were designed to be inserted into the hollow tube end of the new steel h-base legs. This was followed by another design change the next year the use of long lasting and non rusting white plastic nylon for a newly designed self foot that provided the final answer for the h-base foot connection.....

Fiberglass Facts...

Fiberglass, that structural element used along with a plastic bonding resin to create the shells of the molded plastic Eames shells, had been in use for over a decade before the Eames considered using it for their production of seating shells for the new line of molded plastic chairs, which would feature a wide variety of chair base configurations.

Touted at the 1939 Worlds Fairs as a newer miracle material for the production things molded for home and business use, fiberglass found little serious usage until the outbreak of World War II. Used by the Government as a lightweight, waterproof replacement for other structural materials like steel, copper and aluminum, light industry found the same use for it after the war. Primarily used in the burgeoning fiberglass boat business fueled by the return of 100s of thousands of decommissioned Navy personal seeking water based recreation. Fiberglas mixed with plastic resin as a bonding/molding agent was also used in the growing advertising display business as a convenient and low cost method of reproducing lightweight molded shapes and figures for endless store displays.

It is interesting to note that the same 1940 MOMA Organic Furniture Competition, entered by Saarinen and Charles Eames with their collaboration of molded wood furniture, also exhibited a molded plastic chair by artist/craftsman James Prestini. Mr. Prestini entered a one-piece molded plastic chair-constructed of plastic resin mixed with wood chips and molded under compression in a two piece mold.

Seven years later in 1947, slightly ahead of the Eames fiberglass chair, the first piece of American furniture designed using fiberglass for the majority of its construction elements was produced. Designed and produced by a small firm in New York called Lam Associates. As advertised in Art & architecture magazine, this dual purpose table had a fiberglass molded top supported by three simple wood dowels for legs. Lam's table had the added benefit of serving as a lamp as well, for the designers had included a light socket and light bulb on the underside of the fiberglass table to illuminate the top, thereby taking full advantage of the translucent nature of the fiberglass material. A conclusion the Eames would also come to as a result of their design process.

Contacting Sol Fingerhut, Irv Green and Ralph Huhn of Zenith Plastics, located in Gardena California, Charles Eames arranged a series of manufacturing efforts to design a one-piece, colored plastic, seating shell. Successful in late 1949, and after deciding the honest translucent look of the fiberglass and resin was the perfect look, Zenith produced the first shells used in assembling the Fiberglas chairs in early 1950. As with some new designs, the weakest connections rapidly make themselves apparent. With the earliest Fiberglas shells, a cracking and easily damaged edge necessitated the addition of a fiberglass rope molded along the edge of the shell. This fiberglass rope had to be laid in by hand along the edge of the mold for each shell made. In the last year of rope edge shell production, the fiberglass rope was confined to use on the lower edge of the shell. The shell design was finally modified to satisfaction by the removal of the support rope edge and a minor change in shell shape to provide more engineered support.

Manufacturing technologies and materials developed during the war, provided methods and uses for this lightweight molding material that were only starting to be explored when the Eames decided to use fiberglass as the answer to creating a truly one piece seating element that would eventually spawn millions.

After the mass acceptance of fiberglass as an element of Eames furniture, a whole new industry sprang up that would produce thousands of imitation Eames chairs, as well as surfboards and molded fiberglass car bodies for ultra modern, American sports cars like the 1954 Ford T-Bird and the Studebaker Avanti designed by Raymond Lowey.

eames product info: technical sheets

Fiberglass Chair Brochure
A 1950 Eames Office Brochure for the fiberglass chairs designed by Eames

Original 1954 Herman Miller fiberglass samples

Salesman fiberglass colors sample-board for the 14 available colors for Eames fiberglass chairs. This also includes the 3 color choices for the fiberglass chairs deisgned by George Nelson. The 4 samples in the lower right contain the four original Zenith Palstic colors offered in the first run of Eames fiberglass bucket chair in 1950. The yellow/parchment color was also released later in 1950.

Aluminum Group catalog, 1958
A brochure designed by the Eames Officefor the Aluminum Group – no longer referred to as the Indoor/Outdoor Group

Fiberglass Technical Page

1964 technical information on the fiberglass chair shell construction and manufacturing specifications

Eames Stacking Chair, 1959

1954 Herman Miller chair catalog cover

Designed by the Eames Office, this Herman Miller furniture catalog encompasses the 1950 Eames chair catalog with the addition of a set of different bases designed to prevent the chair from bumping into the wall and causing damage to either the edge of the chair back or to the wall.

Shockmount construction

This cut away shows the construction of the shockmount. The inner ring has a center threaded hole for the bolt and the interior disk is perforated to allow the rubber to hold the disk in place and prevent slippage of the threaded disk. The earlier version had an actual bolt welded to a metal disk.

contact Steve