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The Adam Finger High Chair

Updated: May 4, 2023

The Adam Finger high chair in the stroller position. The wheels are now on the ground, and the chair is low enough for the child’s feet to touch the floor and propel the chair. Most of this chair was made from parts of old chairs, and the rest was hand made by Adam Finger who was a cabinet Maker.

Excerpted from The Chronicle Vol. 6 no. 2, April 1953

by Frank Cetin

Back in 1856 a mall by the name of Adam Finger built a high chair in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is far more modern than any high chair being manufactured today. It stands approximately four feet high , was hand made, and through a simple and yet ingenious sprocket arrangement, can be collapsed into four different positions. Simply by pulling a knob on the back of the chair and positioning a rod in a different hole in the sprocket, this high chair can be lowered into a play chair, a stroller or a rocker.

Adam Finger chair 2

A back view of the chair in the high chair position, showing the simple arrangement which determines the position the chair will be in. A rod with a knob on the top end extends down through the string spring, and through an M type bracket. Small, iron rods are rivet­ed to the bottoms of the legs of the M, go through the base of the chair and fit into a hole in the sprocket gears. Pulling up on the knob draws the M together, which pulls the legs together, which pulls the rods out of the holes and allows the gears to mesh. The meshing gears automatically draw the chair into a lower position, until the rods reach and fall into the next holes, holding the chair in place.

According to Mr. Theodore Mueller, curator of the Milwaukee County Historical Society Museum where the chair is now on display, Adam Finger built this chair when his first child was born. At that time it became so popular, that Mr. Finger began making other chairs for his friends. As a result he started a good pay­ing business. This particular chair, believed to be the only one still in existence, was used in the Finger family for four generations, until it was donated to the museum by Mrs. Russell Wilcox, a descendant of the Finger family.

The chair is shown here in the high chair position. The legs now extend beyond the wheels about an eighth of an inch, making sure the chair will not roll away. The strip of metal shown across the tops of the two legs is held in place by two rivets which go through the legs, and through the centers of two sprocket gears, which is part of the raising and lowering mechanism. These gears have a series of holes drilled in them, and posi­tioning an iron rod in one of the holes determines which position the chair will be in.

This is the rocker position. The iron rod is now positioned in the last hole on the sprocket gear, and the chair is resting on the curve of the legs. Here too, the chair is low enough to allow the child to reach the fl.our with his feet, and thus he is able to rock himself. The finish on the chair is scuffed and scratched, but is the original finish, and it certainly doesn’t look as if it were almost one hundred years old. [Now more than 150 years old, of course.]


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