by Paula Bosse
The Comfort Furniture Co. in Detroit manufactured a line of “refreshingly novel” furniture which was, as their ads said “comfortable, restful, sanitary, artistic” and “indestructible.” The company incorporated in Detroit at the end of 1904 and the only ads I’ve found have been from the very end of that year and from 1905 (the year in which they exhibited at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon).
I recently came across a small business card for the company (seen below) which shows a man reclining on the trimmed-in-fringe “vibrating” couch. He doesn’t look particularly comfortable, but the photographer might have caught him in mid-vibration. This small card was, presumably, given away at the Comfort Furniture booth at the Lewis and Clark Centennial. The caption reads, “Showing position of Comfort Vibrating Couch with person of average weight.”
The back of the card: “Manufactured by The Comfort Furniture Company, 225-229 Beecher Ave., Detroit, Mich. Send for catalogue and prices.”
It continued: “148 E. St. Cor. 7th. Varied Industries Building is where you saw the COMFORT VIBRATING FURNITURE that was so ARTISTIC, INDESTRUCTIBLE and COMFORTABLE.”
Below is an ad that appeared in the Lewis and Clark Centennial guide (1905). I hadn’t noticed the fringe in the above photo until I saw this ad. So … like a hospital bed. With fringe.
Another ad from 1905. Everything from children’s beds to furniture for Turkish baths.
Also from 1905:
A notice of incorporation appeared in the Dec. 28, 1904 edition of the Detroit Free-Press.
A mini article/lengthy blurb about the company appeared in the Dec. 1904 issue of The Furniture Journal:
The fate of Detroit’s pulsating furniture is unknown.
UPDATE: If you are a fan of the U.S. version of Antiques Roadshow, you might have seen one of these pieces of furniture featured on Season 23, Episode 2 (watch the clip here). This humble little post has gotten over a thousand hits since the show aired last night (Jan. 14, 2019). I wrote this post in September, 2018, so I’ve gone back to see if I could find anything else on the furniture, and I did find one helpful little article which describes how the chaise longue seen above was constructed. When I saw constant use of the word “vibrating” I assumed that electricity was used (sanitariums were using a lot of electro therapy in those days) — but it appears the vibrating was more bouncing than vibrating and was the result of a large spring and that “the vibrations can be produced at the will of the person occupying the couch and the motion is excellent exercise and is also said to be very beneficial to invalids or those suffering with insomnia or nervous troubles” (the spring is visible in the top ad, on the underside of the model with the fringe).
I’d like to think there was some small amount of voltage coursing through this furniture (and perhaps its occupants), but the technology utilized might have been a lot more low-tech than I had initially thought.
Sources & Notes
Top image is from a Comfort Furniture Company business card (collection of the author).
Electricity as a therapeutic miracle-cure was all the rage when this vibrating couch appeared (even though it does not appear that the furniture above involved electricity). I’ve written about a couple of other unusual electricity-powered therapies in my Dallas-history blog:
- “‘Electricity in Every Form’ — 1909”
- “Zap Those Extra Pounds Away in Mrs. Rodgers’ Electric Chair — 1921”
Copyright © 2018 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.