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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

More Trekkie trivia

No, I'm honestly not a Trekkie. In fact, I've never seen a Star Trek movie or even watched a full episode of Star Trek on TV. I'm not a sci-fi fan, unless you count my obsession with Ray Bradbury's Illustrated Man. It's truly all about the MCM connection to me, so this is the last Star Trek post, at least until I get another tip that fascinates me.

That said, I never realized there was so much material on the Internet about mid-century furniture and Star Trek, but Jonathan Goldstein at Planner, Perimeter, Predictor, Paul McCobb put me wise to another topic...this one about the Enterprise captain's chair. Apparently, there is considerable evidence to support the idea that the chair from the original series was built around the Naugahyde cushions and walnut arms of a Model No. 2405 or a Model No. 4449 chair designed by Arthur Umanoff for Madison Furniture Industries of Canton, Mississippi, which was manufactured between 1962 and 1968.

Louis Shomick, president of Madison from 1950 till 1966 insists it was their chair. However, Herbert F. Solow, a former Desilu vice-president and John Jefferies, brother of Star Trek art director Walter "Matt" Jefferies, insist it was built from scratch. Jefferies claims he remembers helping his brother build the frame, base and pedestal from plywood...but he doesn't mention anything about making the cushions and arms.

Here are the two chairs. Again, you decide.


Enterprise captain's chair

Madison Furniture Industries Model No. 2405

In 2009 Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, paid $305,000 for a Madison chair to be placed on display at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame in Seattle. Apparently, he had few doubts about what was used to make Kirk's chair.

Now it's off to continue my research about Ren and Stimpy's affinity for the Arne Jacobsen Egg Chair. So far, I've turned up nothing, in spite of the fact that several 30-somethings say they distinctly remember that very thing from the cartoons and have suggested I do a post about it. Happy, happy, joy, joy!


  1. I see it and I AM a trekkie (have a photo of my hubby sitting in Kirk's chair, btw). Love the connections to pop culture and design.

  2. No doubt there are similarities in many of the Star Trek chairs to the mid century designs. How can they not be influenced by them right? Who knows. Either way, they look so cool!

  3. OK, they are the same chairs!

    Kirk had Spock take the legs off the "conventional" one, and set it down in his molded plastic Captains chair. :)

  4. @DearHelenHartman: I find the pop culture aspect interesting too. How could an art director in California find a rather unremarkable chair made by a small furniture company in Mississippi and turn it into such an iconic piece of Star Trek memorabilia that people are willing to pay a fortune for?

    I'd love to see the picture of your husband in Kirk's chair, btw. :)

  5. I'm convinced, they're one and the same!

  6. @Rhan: From everything I've read, they were trying to create a set on the cheap, so it stands to reason they'd use inexpensive existing items where they could and not reinvent the wheel. Burke and Madison were not high-end furniture companies by any means, so they would have fit the bill.

  7. @1950sarh: I agree. I don't know how anyone could argue that's not a Madison chair. It looks exactly as you they sawed the legs off and plopped it right into the middle of a base they had constructed. I'm still trying to figure out why they left the walnut arms exposed.

  8. @I dream lo-tech: I'm sold too. I can't find one detail that differs.

  9. As i mentioned earlier, I grew up seeing star trek (it was telecast in the late 80's and 90's in india )..and loved all the tiny LEDs glowing all over the place and the yummy chairs int he show :)/.oh yes, how could i forget the teleporting brother and I used to play Trek all thetime..made our own "phone" thing with two match boxes and an elastic

  10. @Sudha: How cute! Sounds like my brother and his friend playing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. My brother always had to play the David McCallum character, Illya Kuryakin. He even made up a song that said, "Illya Kuryakin is the nicest man in the world." :) (And he'd wring my neck for telling that on the Internet, but I won't tell if you don't.)