High chairs have been around in some form or another for hundreds of years but they have changed in style over time. Parents then, just like now, needed somewhere to safely sit their child to eat and a way to get them up to table height. Let’s have a look at the history of the high chair and find out when they were invented and how they came into widespread use.
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When were high chairs invented?
High chairs were seen as early as the 1600s in homes with children although it is not known exactly when they were first invented. The modern high chair many of us picture, complete with a tray, was seen around dinner tables from the 1820s.
So, they have been around for a long time and while there have been many different design ideas, colours and features over the years, the basic idea has remained the same. They are chairs for children that raise them up to table height or just above so they can eat as part of the family, and make it convenient for adults to feed them from a sitting position.
History of the high chair
The high chair has been through some changes over time. A high chair used to be an item reserved for the rich because other families simply could not afford to buy one. In the 1600s to the early 1800s high chairs were custom made, from wood, and based on a scaled down version of an adult chair with long legs. High chairs were usually made in England at this time and shipped to various locations for the wealthy.
Over time, bars and trays were added to high chairs which gave parents the freedom to move away from their child with confidence while they were eating. Before this, they could not get up to get something from across the table without compromising their child’s safety. From the mid-1800s, high chairs began to be produced on a large scale in the US and elsewhere. This meant high chairs were now becoming more affordable for the average family and by default, much more popular.
There were some fascinating high chair designs over the years such as high chairs that doubled up as prams and others that rocked. Those ideas would not go over well with the health and safety checks we expect from the high chair manufacturers of today!
By the late 1800s, high chair designs became more stylish with beautiful wooden carvings and rounded edges. There are some fine examples of antique high chairs from this time in various museums and other collections. High chairs from this time period look much more comfortable than their predecessors too.
The next chapter in high chair design was in the early 1900s when they were first made from metal, some with adjustable trays and even leather seat covers. Wooden high chairs were still common, but metal quickly became the material of choice especially when mass production took off in the 1960s.
By the late 1900s, plastic became king and still is a popular choice of material for many families when they buy a high chair for their child. Many designs from this time were tough to keep clean though and had lots of nooks and crannies for food to disappear into. Today, high chair designs have become more streamlined and tend to be much easier to clean with fewer places for food to hide. Wooden high chairs are back in style along with plastic ones or hybrid material designs.
Why is a high chair called a high chair?
A high chair is called a high chair because it is a raised version of a regular chair, sometimes you will hear them referred to as junior chairs if they don’t have a tray attached. It is as simple as that. People were looking for a way to bring their child up to table height so they could be a part of the action, stay safe and to make it easier for adults to feed them.
There are now several versions of the original high chair on the market, some with trays and some without. Some attach to the table, others can be clipped onto a regular chair and others are freestanding. There are different materials and styles to suit all budgets and interiors but they are not so far removed from the first known high chair designs. It’s amazing to think that a design for babies and toddlers from hundreds of years ago is still just as relevant today (with better safety features of course!)