Eames Beats Swords Into Plowshares Posted November 19, 2014 by Daniel Ostroff

In 1949 Charles and Ray Eames made something useful and friendly at a plant dedicated to producing guns. Here’s the story.

The very first Eames arm shell was based on a plaster mold made by Charles and Ray at the Eames Office in Venice, California.  This plaster form was then taken to Pachmayr Gun Works, a Los Angeles maker of guns, to be the basis for steel molds, “male” and “female.”  These steel molds were installed on presses to make the molded shell part of the first Eames molded plastic arm chairs.   The first chairs that came from these molds were exhibited in January 1950 at MoMA’s Good Design Exhibition in Chicago.

Today, Pachmayr is still in the business of making guns; but in this instance, with the Eames design, they made something different.  They made something that was part of  an early edition of a very popular product: lightweight, long-lasting, comfortable seating, sold at very reasonable prices.

By 1957, the chair was so successful that several plants were manufacturing molded Eames shells.  Herman Miller, Herman Miller International, and Vitra have made authentic Eames shell chairs in a variety of locations, including the U.S., England, Germany, and Japan.  Many molds have been made over the years, but the very first mold was made—or, the die was cast, as Charles explained it—at Pachmayr Gun Works on November 19, 1949.

What follows is a letter written by Charles, noting that date.  He refers to the work being done at Pachmayr as “master patterns,” which were the male and female steel molds on which the first shells were produced.

DO FIBERGLASS Eames _die is cast_ Molded Plastic Chair 1949 Letter to Edgar Kaufman 2013_05_09_01_32_44

“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks..” [Isaiah 2:4]

“Eames beats swords into plowshares” indeed.

By Daniel Ostroff

Letter is Copyright Eames Office, LLC 2014, All Rights Reserved.