– Way, way back in the
day, like in cave man days, there was probably no
such thing as comfort. Fred, Wilma, Barney and Betty may have seemed like they
were having a sweet life, but they were sitting
and sleeping on rocks. At some point, cozy
furniture became a thing and continues on through today. I think it started when
Pebbles complained. (upbeat music) After a hard day of school,
work or weekend warrior agony, most of us hurry home to
chill out on a comfy couch or in a cushy chair. But this kind of rejuvenating bliss hasn’t always been available. – In America, in the 1700s and 1800s, you were lucky if you had a table. Think of a picnic table and a bench. That might be it. – As you might
expect, the wealthiest families always had access to the
best creature comforts. But it wasn’t until the 19th century that average households
could afford softer seats. The Henry Ford Museum’s
curator of decorative arts, Charles Sable, showed me
some early design innovations that attempted to help people relax. – What did the hoi polloi,
the regular people, have for furniture? – They didn’t. They didn’t have seating furniture. – How did they eat dinner? – They sat on benches, okay. Sort of like this thing
right in front of us here. This is known as a joint stool. – So at what point, then, do you
have the middle class saying, “We need chairs with backs?” – With the Industrial Revolution, okay? Of the 1820s, ’30s, ’40s,
when furniture becomes cheaper because you have factories
producing furniture that people could afford. And it gets kinda fancy later on, too. Like this chair right here. – Now that looks nice. That’s fancy. It’s sort of swooped back. What is this? What’s going on here? – It was patented by a
guy named Samuel Gragg in Boston Massachusetts, in 1808. And he was interested
in how steam bent wood. So it’s an innovation. The problem was that he made
these pieces of wood too thin and they broke. – The
manufacturing of affordable, comfortable furniture for the masses rose dramatically after
America’s Civil War. – What you have in the post-Civil War era are things like this. – Now this, this is kinda nice looking. – Yes. This is called a Marks Adjustable Chair, and this thing was 2D comfortable. It adjusts back and forth. It’s really one of the
first recliners, okay? It’s all metal and then
you have rattan back here, and you have cushiony seats. Nice, velvet cushion seats. – And now this I like. – Now this represents
what this was trying to do. This represents a huge change
in the way people lived. When we go from the 19th to
the 20th century in America, houses change. People like Gustav Stickley comes up with the idea of a living room. This is a chair made
by the La-Z-Boy company. There were two cousins from
Michigan who started the company, and they looked at what
we call Adirondack chairs, and they said, “Let’s make
these things adjustable, so they can be more comfortable.” And then they went to sell the
chair in a department store. And the department store said, “Oh, we can’t sell this
thing, it’s an outdoor chair. You can only sell it
for part of the year.” Well, if you upholster it, you
can sell it all year-round. And that’s how they came up with the idea of, ultimately, this. And over time, they
started refining the idea of the reclining chair
into a chair that locks, goes back, has this
crazy lever on the side, and what they call the
biggest feature is this thing, “the automatic.” – The automatic. Which may be the most important
innovation in this museum. – Correct. Well, I wouldn’t say that. – I would sacrifice one of my
family members for that chair. – (laughs)