While much of the written history of the recliner starts in the early Twentieth Century, the recliner chair dates back much further. The earliest recliner chairs actually appeared in the late Eighteenth Century, and were functionally similar to today’s recliners. The goal was always to allow the user to sit upright or recline back with the legs and feet off the floor.
What has been dubbed by many designers as motion furniture, the recliner has been with us in one form or another for over two hundred years. Modeled after the chaise lounge, the long history of the recliner has seen this popular piece of furniture go from simple to fully motorized. Thought to be an American invention, the recliner has its roots as far back as Napoleon.
In the period around eighteen fifty, the French introduced a reclining camp bed one of which reportedly belonged Napoleon III. This camp cot was quite functional for its time serving multiple purposes. Thought to be modeled after the daybed lounge, the camp cot served as a chair, a bed and chaise lounger. Well upholstered for the times, the reclining camp bed was portable and featured padded arm rests and a steel frame. While the Napoleon camp cot lacked a complex mechanism it no less functional than today’s recliner designs. The user could sit in an upright, recline with the feet elevated or the cot could be folded out for sleeping.