Airline Chair
USA, c. 1934
Kem Weber

Birch, ash, naugahyde, steel tacks
30¹⁄₂ x 24¹⁄₂ x 34”

In 1927 Kem Weber opened his own industrial design studio in Hollywood where he conceived of this Airline chair. One of the strongest statements in American furniture of the streamlined style, the Airline chair has a raked profile and an angular frame whose arm supports and armrests reach forward while the chair’s elongated seat and low back appear ready to launch their sitter into the sky. In its name and style, the chair associated itself with the latest developments in modern transportation. The sculptural quality of the plywood arms and armrests can also be interpreted as a precursor to the biomorphic furniture of Charles and Ray Eames.

With this chair Weber aimed to marry comfort, beauty, utility and affordability. The designer conceived of the chair for mass-production and the first models were constructed in collapsible parts so that they could be assembled at home. Unable to secure a manufacturer, Weber founded the Airline Chair Company and produced the chairs, likely in collaboration with a local cabinetmaker, according to the specifications of particular orders. Disney ordered about three-hundred upholstered Airline chairs in 1935 for use in their studio offices and screening rooms at their Burbank animation studios, for which Weber was the project architect. —Cooper Hewitt

(Photo: Cooper Hewitt)