As we covered here, the wingback chair was designed for climate control, circa 1600s. It was meant to be sat in front of a fireplace. Fires consume oxygen, and as they use up what's in the room, they draw outside air into the house through whatever cracks exist. This draws an unpleasant draft. The wings on the chair kept the draft off of the sitter's neck.
This fan chair, uncovered by Suzanne Ellison over at Lost Art Press, was designed with the opposite function; it's meant to create, rather than block, a breeze. Invented in Philadelphia by a John Cram in 1786, one of these was reportedly owned by George Washington, who lived in steamy Virginia.
As for how it works: The sitter uses their feet to repeatedly press down on the treadle beneath the seat. The rear of the treadle is attached to a vertical pole running up the side of the structure. Leather straps wrapped around the horizontal shaft supporting the fan are attached to the top of the pole. This transforms the up-down motion of the pole into an oscillating motion for the fan, which was made of pasteboard.
I'm digging how the fan is slightly bulbous at the front; a primitive stab at improving the UX. You can picture the inventor starting with a rectilinear fan, then saying "Hmm, all of the air is just going straight down—maybe if I add this shape to the front, some of the breeze will get on one's face."
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