Eames Fiberglass Plastic Side Chair Generations

Even though the release of the Eames Fiberglass Side Chairs only followed the Arm version by one year, there is significantly less in the way of generations than that of their sister chairs. In fact, very little ever gets said about the generations of the side versions which is not the case in the arms. It may have a lot to do with the lack of stamps and labels in the side chairs which is very much the opposite with the arms. Quite why this was the case will remain a mystery but the numbers of side chairs manufactured outnumbered arm versions by at least 10 to 1. We use generations, which are subjective, as a means to help authenticate, age, review and value a piece, and in this article we explore Eames Plastic Side Chair Generations.

1. Zenith Prime 2. Patent Label 3. Small Mounts 4. Six Colors

1. Zenith Prime 2. Patent Label 3. Small Mounts 4. Six Colors

1st Generation (est 1951 - 1959)

Almost all 1st gen Side shells had no impressions in the mold. Some will be found with silver Zenith stamps and batch code stamped on. Or date stamps and a few with backwards Z.

  • Zenith Prime Silver circle stamp & batch code
  • Patent Label (From 1957 on wards)
  • Small Mounts in narrow fixture (wide from 1955)
  • 6 Colors (Elephant Grey, Red Orange, Lemon Yellow, Greige, Parchment, Seafoam)

Upholstered side chairs were different too throughout the generations of Eames Plastic Side Chairs. During the first generation the upholstered seat pad was actually removable and fixed around the edges using a wire based tightener. Removal of these early style seat pads would reveal a clean fiberglass shell underneath. Later generations and the upholstery was fixed in place by gluing onto the foam previously affixed to the shell, with a vinyl edging all the way around. These later upholstered chairs didn't have shock mounts either as Herman Miller could apply threaded lugs through the chair, hidden underneath the covering.

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1. HM Stamp 2. Patent Label 3. Smaller Mounts 4. Many Colors

1. HM Stamp 2. Patent Label 3. Smaller Mounts 4. Many Colors

2nd Generation (est 1959 - 1989)

All 2nd gen shells were made at multiple factories and with many differing shell colors, all with Herman Miller Embossed & varying factory stamps.

  • Herman Miller name always appears alongside varying factory logos
  • All 2nd gen sides would have originally had patent labels
  • Small Mounts in narrow or wide fixtures depending on base
  • Multiple Colors (From 1960 HM had many colors with as many as 26 at one time)

Why are the plastic chairs not considered a generation? ... this is a very good question and our opinion is only that, an opinion, but we are collectors and enthusiasts and our loyalty lies with design in its originality and these do not represent an Eames Chair. The introduction of the 'molded plastic' version of the sides occurred in 2001. History appears to write that the fiberglass versions were stopped for 'environmental reasons' though the reality is by 1989 they were entirely out of fashion. 2001 was also 13 years after the death of Ray and 23 after the death of Charles so neither had any involvement in this low cost, machine mass produced material. Even more revealing is that fiberglass is back among the good books and it is in fact plastics, including the polypropylene used in these chairs, that are now the scourge of the environment.

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1. New Logo 2. Flat Edge 3. Double Mounts 4. Nine Colors

1. New Logo 2. Flat Edge 3. Double Mounts 4. Nine Colors

3rd Generation (est 2013 - Present)

Sine 2013 and after a 24 year break, fiberglass chairs are available once again.

  • The new shells have a logo impressed into the fiberglass including Charles Eames signature
  • All the shells have straight edges
  • The new side chairs have different size mounts to the past, larger on the front, smaller on the rear
  • The new range has 9 current colors