Picture This LII

I’m normally of the opinion that (furniture wise, at least) little of any merit was invented or produced after 1825. There was one nineteenth-century invention however, the Surprise Chair that, to this day, can still cause one to cringe and guffaw in equal measure.

surprise_chair_01aThe Surprise Chair, invented in 1880.

The startling effect produced by a backward trip, accompanied by a loud explosion, is superior to that caused by a flying trip on a loop-the-loop. It produces the real plunging feeling with absolutely no danger to the occupant, as it is well padded and the rockers prevent it from jarring.

A modern, remotely controlled version of the Surprise Chair can be enjoyed weekly on The Graham Norton Show on the television.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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7 Responses to Picture This LII

  1. D.B. Laney says:

    This, without a doubt, needs to be on your proposed furniture program!


    • Jack Plane says:

      While it’s very tempting to make a human-flipping chair, I think after the second or third law suit, the novelty would wear off and it would be resigned to the bonfire.

      But I’d be very interested in seeing footage of other readers’ Surprise Chairs!



  2. Katya says:

    When I was a little girl of 10, my always-ready-to-think-up-a-diabolical-act younger sister, and I, dug a deep-ish hole in our woods and filled it with mud; an hours long affair, I must say. We then covered this chamber lightly with delicate sticks and leaves, and set a rickety stool atop it. Why? Our arch enemy, and neighbor from down the road, one Billy Newcombe, aged 12, had ridiculed the fashion shows my sis and I were always staging to entertain our appreciative parents. It had galled us, such sniggering from this Philistine, bringing out a very primal, little girl need for revenge. We convinced Billy he was king of all dominions around – vanity! thy name is Boy – including the sacred mud site. With a crown we’d made set upon his head, he was easily lured to the rickety throne. Magically, dutifully, it collapsed under the weight of his pompous bum, sending him into the muck beneath! While this tale may not, strictly speaking, be an example of a Well Constructed Surprise Chair in action, I remember distinctly my sister and me yelling “Surprise” at this success, and running for our lives out of that wood and into the arms of our parents, who scolded us for treating “that nice Billy” so caustically.


  3. bsrlee says:

    I know people that such a chair would be perfect for, but I think the mechanism might need a tiny modification – a reversal of the leg hinge and maybe some more springs. They are those people who insist on racking your chair by standing it up on its back legs then scooting their posterior to the front rail and then pushing back – this is repeated over time until the poor abused piece of furniture is reduced to a shuddering wreck. The more bone headed of the species will then complain about what inferior furniture you have – they having destroyed all but the most robust and pedestrian furnishings in their own abode.


  4. Jeremy says:

    I for one am thankful for dental anesthesia c.1850


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