The Eames Patent Labels! Grids of seemingly endless and meaningless numbers adorning the works of Charles and Ray Eames, via adhesive rectangular stickers issued by Herman Miller from 1957 through to circa 1989?... Or perhaps not!!
Patent Labels may have (at the time) once been no more than Herman Miller's physical expression of the technical feats of their products, but today they can be utilized to age the piece they adorn very accurately indeed. Once peeled and scratched and scrubbed from the underside of the chairs they lived on, collectors are now openly hoping that any Eames Chair they come across still retains this unbelievably helpful piece of history.
Eames Patent Labels were mostly found on the Eames Lounge Chair and the Fiberglass series of arm and side chairs. As of now, we are aware of 8 labels taking us from 1957 and their first usage to 1989 and the end of the Fiberglass chairs. It may also be possible that some continued into the 1990's with use on the Eames Lounge Chair. You will find all 8 and the years of use on our labels and stamps page and here we will explain how you can understand them and their ageing.
A Natural Progression
Opposite are the first two Eames Patent Labels used by Herman Miller, the top one released in 1957 and the bottom in 1959.
All 8 known labels follow a natural progression which can be easily tracked. As each patent was passed they were added to the list at the end on the right hand column. Over time, as the list grew bigger and bigger, new ones were continued to be added to the list and some of the older ones would no longer need to be shown.
Note then on the first patent label the last patent given which is 2 738 835. Now cast your eye to the second patent label where you will find 2 738 835 not at the end but 5 places up meaning that 4 new patents have been added in the new label.
This natural progression literally takes place on every label and is a great record of the changes over the years. The entire progression can be seen on the labels and stamps page where each of the 8 labels are exhibited.
The patents of each label can be referenced, searched and found at the US Patents Office. All Eames Patents referenced on Herman Millers labels can still be found, just enter the number of each one into the field and press search. The results are simple, all the image patent filings are present as well as technical details and the names of the inventors. Herman Miller's patent labels were not specific to the item they were necessarily placed on, they merely carried a group of many patents including those relevant to the stickered product.
The web address and simple online form of the US Patent and Trademarks Office
Now that we are able to look into each Eames patent and its relevant filing date it is easy to date the labels (and then product). Herman Miller was thankfully efficient in the sense that they quickly changed to new labels once new patents were available and changes occurred quite regularly, especially during the 1960's.
We know that the first labels were used in 1957 (the year they first arrived on shell chairs, matched by the last filing date in 1956 of the last given patent number on the first label). The new 4 patents then on label 2 date the label upto 1959 because the last patent was filed in July 59 and therefore the label could not be earlier than this.. You can then continue this trend of searching patents added to the newer label and get the dates from the Patent Office. The third label then had patents upto 1962 and so on. The result is 8 patents labels with clear defining start and end dates, a fantastic history stamp to any Eames piece.
We very much doubt that those weird labels of numbers will be targets for removing in the future! The shortest label was used only for a few months in 1963. The longest serving label ran from 1978 for some 11 years until the end in 1989.