Early Chairs for the Handicapped

The modern use of wheelchairs and walkers has helped many people over the last 80 years but no such items existed in the 1800s and early 20th century. If someone in the 1800s was sick or disabled they either stayed in bed or a stationary chair.

There were some chairs affixed to carts that were then pulled by another person to transport a person who could not walk. Then a reclining chaise lounge chair was developed. This could be adjusted to be straight up or reclined down. Then wheels were added so the recliner could be moved. But just within a room, not any distance.

In the late 1700s there was a wheelchair designed with large rear wheels and a small front wheel, first used in the therapeutic water of Bath, England. They became popular and were sold but did need some to help push the chair.

Another type was a larger fully padded chair and had caster wheels on the four legs of the chair. Again, this could be move within the room solely. There was also a writing stand attached and small compartments in the large arms of the chair so the person had paper, pens, and other needed items. A bigger drawer was also under the seat that could be pulled out. It was like having one’s desk supplies or other items at the person’s fingertips.

In the mid-1900s to 1900, chairs with wooden wheels and then metal ones were developed, that the disabled person could steer themselves.

In the early 1930s, Harry Jennings, an engineer ,designed a folding, tubular steel frame folding wheelchair using the ‘X’ bracket for folding the chair. With a disabled friend, Herbert Everest, they formed a company, ‘Everest & Jennings’ to make these moving wheelchairs. A power wheelchair was developed by the company in the mid-1950s. This was a great development especially for wounded soldiers of World War 2.

In recent years, the materials used for the wheelchair have been lightweight and strong. There is a wide variety of wheelchairs and walkers today.

Check your family tree, see if there were ancestors disabled and either had some type of older wheelchair or more modern one.

Photo: Wheelchair of 1900.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Family Story-Person with a Disability

Census Info about those with a Disability

Illnesses of Long Ago

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.