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The Collapsible Chair first came about in the 19th century in Whitechapel, London. Ladies walking the streets would often get tired, between meeting gentlemen, whom they offered "a good time." Once such good time was offered, tea and cucumber sandwiches were eaten and the men returned to their pipe smoking and horse riding.
As conventional chairs were much too cumbersome to fit into a ladies purse, an enterprising engineer named Isambard Kingdom Brunel invented a cast iron riveted 3-ton collapsible seating device which could be folded to only 2 metres in length and could thenceforth be fitted into a standard two horse purse.
Certain prominent engineers decried this invention as impractical for daily use, and it was seen as one of Brunel's lesser inventions. However it did serve a purpose and was reinvented by Henry Fonda as the Model T collapsible seat in the early 20th century.
The Model T collapsible seat was based on a simple premise. There was a demand for modern seating within the middle class, who had a greater disposable income. Mass production and steelworking techniques meant the 3-ton horse drawn, patented folding seating device could be produced at a rate of one per day and therefore more cheaply. Swift advances in technology meant only one was made before newer alloys meant the weight could be reduced to 300g and the length to 0.75m.
He famously stated that the customer could have any colour so long as it was beige, maroon, white, yellow, red or mauve. Black was not available.
The patented mechanism consisted of approximately 14,000 moving parts and required a 2-stroke, 14 cylinder, 1400 horsepower mark II Bosley steam petrol hybrid engine to function. A trained engineer had to operate the folding seat and this was funded as part of a grant to revive the Southern seating industry.
The complication of needing a trained engineer to operate the seat naturally took its toll on the finances of middle class families and consequently the invention was the preserve of the landed elite.
The invention was placed on hold due to the great war, and the lack of world demand for a seating device which used such a large weight of metal. However in cafes and bistros all across Europe talk was rife of this resurgence of the British seating device. The younger generations, who had little knowledge of such wonders of technology began to rethink the application of the components.
Following armistice in 1918, resources in Europe were severely depleted and funding for several applications of the technology, including in powered flight, military applications and applications in portable art gallery and hiking seating was not forthcoming.