Mid 50ies Thonet Mystery Easy Chair – Solved

Mystery Thonet USA Chair IMG_9789

Thonet Industries INC., USA, mid 50ies wood and steel Mystery Chair.

From time to time readers ask me for help identifying a chair. Alas I’m just an amateur, a chair lover, but not so much a chair expert. Sometimes I post the photos and ask my readership for help and sometimes they do give great help.

The Label, or tag, under this mystery chair is interesting

Tag Thonet Industries INC. York USA Mystery Chair

It reads:

Do not remove this tag under penalty of Law
All New Material Consisting of
Foam Rubber
REG No. PA. 3373

This article is made in compliance with in act of Dist. of Col approved July 3, 1926; Kansas approved March 1923; Minn approved April 24, 1929; New Jersey revised statutes 26; 10-6 to 18

Certification is made by the manufacture that the materials in this article are described in accordance with the law

Sold by(blank)

Date of Delivery(blank)

Distributed by: Thonet Industries, INC.
One Park – Avenue New York 16, N.Y.
Factory: York PA

Thonet Industries, INC

I vaguely knew that there has been a large Thonet factory in the USA. I remember reading somewhere about the demolition of the leftovers of such factory. I’m glad the reader sent me this photo, because until now I had thought the US factory was located near New York City. Not true, they had a posh showroom at 1 Park Lane in New York City, NY. The factory was in York, PA, USA.

Via a blog post of the York Blog I’ve now learned that the factory burned down in 1993:

Leftovers from the Thonet Industries INC  factory  in York PA USA

This 1995 photograph shows the burned out Thonet Industries complex two years after the fire, one of the largest in the past two decades in York County.

After the aside:
It is not clear to me whether Thonet Industries only sold its own product or third parties product as well. It would not surprise me if a lot of history of the US Thonet saga has been lost with the burning down of the factory

Anybody an idea about the chair?

Update:
As per our kind comment below:

Not really a mystery. This modular lounge group #4390 first appears in the Thonet USA catalogues in 1959 and continues until 1972. Available in many configurations, with and w/o arms and table inserts it has wood rails and natural or gold anodized aluminum legs. Your photo is of model #4391 and appears to have the gold anodized legs.

 Update 2:

thonet usOne mistery chair leading to another mistery chair: The one bought by commenter Brian.

22 thoughts on “Mid 50ies Thonet Mystery Easy Chair – Solved”

  1. Not really a mystery. This modular lounge group #4390 first appears in the Thonet USA catalogues in 1959 and continues until 1972. Available in many configurations, with and w/o arms and table inserts it has wood rails and natural or gold anodized aluminum legs. Your photo is of model #4391 and appears to have the gold anodized legs.
    At that time Thonet USA had 3 production factories in York, PA, Statesville, NC and Sheboygan, WI. A good reference book which follows Thonet from Europe to the USA is Christopher Wilk’s “Thonet: 150 Years of Design” published in 1980 by Barron’s USB# 0-8120-5384-2.

  2. I remember that the York Plant had a seconds store right at the plant. They were selling things that were made at the York plant that for some reason was never shipped out to stores. In 1975 I bought a small apartment table with two chairs there at a cost of somewhere around $100.00. I think the plant was on either E. Princess St. or E. King St. The streets might have run down both sides of the plant, as it took up the whole block almost.

  3. My grandfather worked for Thonet for almost 40 years in the York, PA store retiring in 1983. EVERYTHING in their home is Thonet. My grandfather was management after years and had them build pieces to fit the house so everything is one of a kind. They have 15+ chairs, couches, beds, cabinets and hutches. Everything is still in almost perfect condition after all these years.

    1. Amanda, can you tell me your grandfather’s name? There is a pretty good chance I knew him, or knew of him. If it was Sam, he and dad were friends and golfing buddies when we first moved to York. If that is him, then you are related to Brad, maybe his daughter or niece? whom I saw a few years back covering a golf tournament at Regent’s Glen. I remember Sam always had a joke handy and a great sense of humor. He may have been responsible for mom and dad becoming members at Red Lion CC, as well.

        1. How ’bout that! Yes, it is. Had a feeling Sam was your grandpa. Always liked Sam. I wouldn’t be surprised if dad had a hand in helping your grandparents with their furniture.I’m going to test my memory. Grandmother’s name, Miriam and you have an uncle that was in the Air Force? If so, he was partly responsible for me going in the AF. Next time you talk to your dad, please tell him I said Hello. Glad you responded. 🙂

  4. My father, Will Russ, was VP in charge of manufacturing at the York plant during the 60’s-70’s. We moved to York in 1958, when the plant was called Home Furniture Co (and Thonet) I believe. Eventually, it just became Thonet. My older brother, Ron, worked there for many years in various capacities, starting in the plant (dad didn’t believe in nepotism, he and I had to apply like everyone else), worked up to become a shop foreman, eventually into sales, which he did through a few changing of hands of the company. He was eventually let go by the current owners (I think) after around 40 yrs. of service. I also worked there before going into the Air Force as a sprayer and after getting out of the service in 1973 in odd jobs, since my sprayers position had been filled. I met my late, ex-wife there, who was a secretary. I may be able to find some of dad’s photos, but can’t help you with the chair pictured, although I remember seeing it. The bentwood rockers were assembled in York, coming from Poland, I believe at the time. I’m betting that JoaninYork, who posted back in June, may have worked with my dad, as she obviously knows some important detailed facts. Joan, if that’s you and you see this, Hello! By the way, when I say dad didn’t believe in nepotism, he wouldn’t even say hello when he passed my spray booth because he didn’t want the union stewards to make a case for favoritism! Unfortunately, he was early retired when Simmons, I think it was, bought Thonet and they replaced dad with 2 young engineers. It broke his heart as furniture and that plant and it’s people were his life. I’m wondering who Amanda Smith’s grandfather is/was, as I most likely knew him. By the way, the dining room table and chairs, as well as some other pieces of furniture in my house were made by dad on weekends at the plant. It has a gunstock walnut top made of GE Textolite, which dad helped GE to develop. I think before that, Textolite was primarily similar to Formica, with patterns popular of the time. Joan may be able to confirm or correct my memory on that.

  5. I bought used, 6 diningroom bentwood chairs around 1990. I have just now decided to research the Thonet label on the bottom. They are very nice, upholstered chairs with bentwood arms that curve down and also form the seat side and front leg. The front of the arm is free floating. I think that they came from a restaurant because the guy I got them from had about 30 of them. The label on the bottom is exactley like the one in this site except the address is 491 E. Princess st, York PA. The design, comfort, and sturdiness of these chairs has always impressed me. I hope this message makes it to this site.

  6. I recently purchased a beautiful thonet armchair that is reminiscent of the eames plycraft style. it has bentwood sides that support the arms much like an Eames Lounge chair, is upholstered in ablack leather and has 4 chrome tube legs. I have yet to find any information on it, nor anything of similar look. I would love anyones help in providing me with any little bit of information about the chair. I absolutely love it and would love to find out more about it. I will copy a link where an image of my chair can be seen.

    @Brian Scanlon, I would love to see a picture of your chairs. perhaps you post a link to some pictures like I am doing. thanks

    http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=143kzue&s=5

  7. I just picked up 2 number 18 Thonet chairs with this same mystery label.They are upholstered in what appears to be a tan leather…not sure if it is original. Any comments would be helpful.

  8. Thank you for the information on Thonet’s early years. I love hearing the personal stories such as Steve’s and Amanda’s and wish the kind of longevity and loyal displayed by their relatives was still valued in our modern, high-turnover, society. Curious to know if Steve and Amanda’s families had actually ever met?
    Now for the reason I found this site in the first place……I recently purchased what I think are original Thonet “Cesca” chairs – made before the controversy erupted over who was the original designer. The tag reads ” Thonet” and has a New York address. My research has fallen short. What was the chair called before “Cesca”, the name given to it in the 50’s. If this is an original version of the Cesca as made by Thonet in th 1930’s, does that mean it is more valuable than the modern knoll version? I can send photos if anybody is interested ………
    Thanks so much! Pamela

    1. Pamela, I can probably guarantee my dad knew Amanda’s grandfather. He knew most of the employees there, particularly the ones in management being in charge of manufacturing for the plant, as well as a lot of the production workers by name. Furniture making was one of his passions in life, along with golf, which he was also very good at. When I was very small, he had his own small furniture making business in Marlboro, NJ, then in Southern Pines, NC. I remember him telling me he had European immigrants (this was the late 40’s, early 50’s) working for him and he taught them how to keep track of how many pieces they made by putting dried beans in an empty jar for each piece they finished. At the end of the day he would count the beans in the jars to keep track of production, since they spoke little English, but were excellent furniture makers! He also told me he could probably fix most of the machines at Thonet because of his experience with his own business. If a machine broke, he was the one to fix it back then. It was sad to see the plant catch fire twice, the second time being it’s death sentence. I heard it was caused by homeless occupants, as the plant had closed down and was empty. I still live in York and whenever I drive by the old site on E. Princess, I think of dad when I cross the railroad tracks at the corner, because he used to park his car there at the stairway to the office on the second floor.

    2. Pamela, As you might see by my and Amanda’s posts, yes, my parents and Amanda’s grandparents were friends, as I was with her dad back in the 60’s.

  9. Beste Guido,

    Ik bezit 8 Thonet stoelen (sinds 1978) die aan herstelling toe zijn. Dit is ook de reden dat ik deze “Chair blog” heb leren kennen.
    Ik heb een hersteller gevonden. De stoelen heb ik binnengegeven.
    Ze worden binnenkort hetsteld.
    Als je of iemand anders interesse heeft op het resultaat, laat het me dan weten!
    groeten uit Munte/Merelbeke 9820
    groetjes
    Antoine

  10. I think I have a Thonet usa chair that can be seen in their 1958 catalog (5801). There is no tag underneath. The only place I have seen the chair is that photo in the catalog. Can I send a picture? I am not sure where to continue my research. Thanks!

    1. Jennie, if you post a photo of your chair, I can ask my older brother, who was a salesman for Thonet for many years, if he knows anything about the piece. Can’t guarantee anything, but maybe he might be of some help. He inherited more of our dad’s talent for woodworking than I did, as well as spending pretty much all his working life in the furniture business, most of it for Thonet. I’ll be glad to pass it along to him, if you like.

        1. Thanks Amanda. Now I remember. Couldn’t think of your Uncle’s name but now I have it. I remember talking to him about the Air Force. You can always email me outside of this blog, if you wish, as I doubt others are interested in our shared family history! 😉 My email is: steve @srphotog.com. There is no space in there. I put it in in case of spammer robots.

  11. I found a chair made by Thonet Ind. in Statesville,N.C. I would love to refurbish this amazing chair. It has been treated poorly by it’s original owner. Let me try to describe it. It has a circle like back. Reminds me of a neck pillow or brace. And a full seat of course. Chrome is showing. I love the look. Can you help? Is there a store close to my home town that sells these? I live in Cleveland,Tn. (about 30 min. from Chattanooga, Tn. and about 90 min. from Knoxville,Tn. Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks Delores Troxler

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