In 2013, Lexington Historical Society received a donation from the Whitman family of an Eames molded plywood lounge chair. Simple in design, yet an icon of modern style, the chair is known as an LCW (Low Chair Wood).
It came from the estate of Elizabeth and Robert Whitman. Elizabeth earned her BFA in Interior Design from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1949. Whitman worked as an interior designer for both The Architects Collaborative and Design Research, two widely known modern design firms. Her husband Robert received a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in structural engineering in 1951 and taught in MIT’s Department of Civil Engineering from 1957-1993.
Given the Whitmans’ experience with design and engineering, it is no surprise that they owned such an iconic chair, created by such an iconic couple. Charles and Ray Eames were arguably two of the most prolific and talented designers of the 20th century.
Before teaming up with her husband Charles, Ray Eames worked with Charles and Eero Saarinen in preparing molded plywood furniture designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition.
Charles and Ray Eames married in 1941 and moved to California. During the Second World War, the couple was commissioned by the United States Navy to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells.
After the war, Charles and Ray continued to apply their creativity with wood to furniture design. This led to the creation of the molded plywood lounge chair, their first mass produced product, in 1946. If you look at the side of our chair, you can see the layers of wood veneer bonded together.
Other forms of the Eames chair became popular, especially their later work with Herman Miller, but the LCW style is the first of its kind in their opus and very recognizable, despite only being produced from 1946-47. We were pleased to receive a fine example of such an iconic object and to feature the chair in our mid-century modern Lextopia exhibit in 2015.
Just as the Historical Society’s 18th century objects help illuminate the story of the 18th century houses for which we care, mid-century modern objects help us tell the story of MCM art and architecture and the “second revolution” of Lexington.
If you are interested in what that might look like, join us for a mid-century modern cocktail party on November 2!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.