Mystery object IDENTIFIED! – Endean posing chair, c. 1888

A few days ago I posted this object, which was transferred to us from another museum last year. It was identified as a photographer’s posing stand and as I want to do an exhibition about how Victorians dressed for the camera some day, it seemed like it could be useful even though I wasn’t sure how it worked.

It consists of a round wooden platform with a central stool, and another stool on the outside edge of the base that is adjustable in position and height, with a removable back rest. The stools have been recovered with blue velvet upholstery at some point and the base was also recovered with a floral patterned carpet and gold fringe trim – presumably replacing something similar that was original to the piece.

Underneath the platform there is a bar that attaches the two stools, as well as wheels that allow the whole platform to be easily moved around.

The back of the smaller stool that is at the edge of the platform can be tilted and the back rest raised and lowered.

I thought this plaque which is on the back of the stool said ‘Indian Chair’ but it’s actually ‘Endean’ after the inventor’s last name Theodore Endean. Once this was determined, the history started unfolding…

19th century photographers were usually concerned about their subjects moving, especially their head, during the exposure time of taking a photograph. It’s one reason why so few sitters smile in photographs from this time because it’s hard to hold a smile for long. So this chair aided in keeping the sitter still and comfortable.

I received a lot of information from two people who saw this post – Marianne Dow and Lynne Ranieri. Both independently determined that it was an ‘Endean’ chair, not an ‘Indian’ chair, and then found references to its inventor and the object, which filled in the whole story.

Thomas Endean (1853 – 1913) was born in England to a Scottish mother and French father. He came to the United States as a child and learned photography in New York. He worked as an itinerant photographer and won prizes for his work in St. Louis and Germany before settling in Cleveland Ohio in 1886. He set up his studio at 122 Euclid Avenue, and within a year had taken out French, English, and Canadian patents for a posing chair he had developed. In 1888 he applied for the American patent for his chair, and received his patent in February 1889. As the chair in our possession has ‘Pat. Applied for’ on the plaque, it most likely dates from 1888.

Photographs by Theodore Endean, late 1880s – 1890s

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
This entry was posted in Miscellaneous, Patent fashions, Photos. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mystery object IDENTIFIED! – Endean posing chair, c. 1888

  1. Hari says:

    The only mention I know of is in the poem Midsummer by Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) the stanza being: “Rain me sweet odors on the air,
    And wheel me up my Indian chair,
    And spread some book not overwise
    Flat out before my sleepy eyes.”

    No idea if that’s related or any help but there you go 🙂

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