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How did the Metal Lawn Chair get all it's names?

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Hey all y'all!

Since we all love the old chairs, you may have noticed they tend to be called by all sorts of names. For example, you may have the custom of referring to a stamped metal motel retro 50s porch clamshell lawn chair as a "Tulip" chair. Or, maybe your mamma called them "Shell Backs" or even "Yard" chairs. All of which are correct becasue this is one piece of American furniture that does not have any singular name.

Think about that for a moment. All our furniture in the home has an official name. Either the designer or people selling them named the design or style and that's what we call them. Easy as that! But why didn't our beloved...chair made of metal used outside mostly in the lawn but also on porches get named? Well I have some answers for y'all I hope you'll like.

First off, the chair design actually does have sort of an official name which is "Cantilever". You see the frame of a metal lawn chair is not supported in the normal way but instead is shaped like the letter "C". If the base of the "C" were too short, then the chair would flip over backwards which might be fun at parties if there was a pool involved but not much more than that. So if you'll notice, your typical pipe framed lawn chair has a base slightly longer than the total length of the whole chair. This is to distribute the total weight of you and the chair to the ground and keep you sitting pretty. The forces of the load placed on the chair frame travel down the arms, to the ground and then all along the bottom of the frame where it sits on the ground. But it just doesn't sound too cool to fill you mouth with "Cantilevered metal lawn chair" so we don't observe this too often unless were giving a dissertation on the subject...such as...well...now.

The other more colorful names are pretty easy to define. Motel chair comes from the fact that so many of these chairs were used in the front of roadside motels and tourist courts. That's pretty understandable. Then what about, say, Tulip then? There are very unique designs from the late 40s and very early 50s that actually mimics the shape of an opened tulip flower. These are super cool but I've not seen too many. I suspect they were a locally distributed product and only made for a few seasons.

So what about this new word "Bouncer"? I happen to know this answer rather clearly. In the early 2000s, we had a very good customer in Austin, Texas named Charles Gandy. Charlie was an exTexas State congressman that had for reasons I don't exactly recall turned his attention to metal lawn chairs. He was buying some lessor made stuff and doing fair selling them around the Austin area. He ran across us and we exchanged information on what little each of us knew but he had heard somewhere the "Bouncer" name being mentioned. This had come from the rocking or bouncing motion one gets when the frame is flexed and the chair sort of "bounces" up and down. So, he named his chairs Gandy Bouncers. You know these politicions, always wanting top billing!

Charlie loved the Colorado mountains and vactioned up yonder every chance he had. Naturally, he decided he needed to move so he bought some kind of a lodge or other and bid farewell to Austin. He had a young man working with him and Charlie sold out to him. However, Charlie didn't want his name kept on the product so with a little thought, the name was simply and quickly changed to "Candy Bouncer". Now we have another name in the already long list.

Then there was this guy back in the 40s named Alvin Shott making metal lawn chairs that used "Porch Chair" and "Steel Chair" or "All Steel Chair" then later in the 40s and 50s it became the "Shott Chair". But it was a very early design from the late 1930s that "Clam Shell" came to be. This chair actually very closely approximates the shape of your standard garden variety clam shell.

Now if you're shopping for all steel 50s retro lawn chairs and want to do a search, try just plain ole' ordinary "Metal Lawn Chair" and you should get plenty of hits. You'll want to try some of these others because not everybody uses the same call sign and depending on where you were raised it could make a big difference!

Louis Torrans

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