“High Performance Materials: Posted May 25, 2015 by Daniel Ostroff
In a 1956 national television interview on the subject of Eames chairs, Charles Eames said, “In the case of the plastic chairs, the object was to take a material which was a high performance material developed during the war and try to make it available to householders at non military prices.”
You can read more of that interview and more great Eames texts in the new book, An Eames Anthology, available here.
Reflecting on the Eames objective to make high performance materials available at “non-military prices,” note that in 1950 an Eames fiberglass rocking chair cost $36. A gallon of gas was 18 cents, and the average new car cost $1,510.
Consider the long term value: most Eames rocking chairs made in 1950 are still providing good service and performance today, and they are often coveted by collectors. You can buy an authentic new Eames Molded Fiberglass Armchair Rocker for about $600, and you’ll probably be passing it along to the next generations in your family.
This Eames chair won a prize in the Museum of Modern Art’s “Low Cost Furniture Competition” in 1950. When it was originally marketed in New York City by Saks Furniture, it was heralded as “made of airplane plastic!” In the gallery below is the original newspaper advertisement.
Before they met the Eameses, the technicians at Zenith Plastics of Gardena, California, had only supplied fiberglass parts to military airplanes.
Here are two vintage advertisements for Zenith Plastics, the company from which Charles and Ray sourced the materials for the first Eames fiberglass chairs. We know that the Eames Office helped Zenith with their letterhead stationery; it’s possible that the Eames staff worked on these ads as well.
The military focuses on materials that have great strength-weight ratios and durability. The Eames Office, in its commitment to providing ultimate service and performance with their designs, gives consumers products with those same qualities.