A rotary desk made in 1987 by William S. Wooten of Indianapolis, Ind. is the best example of "Innovative Furniture in American," a show open through May 10 at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, 91st and Fifth Avenue, New York City.
The desk's side panels fold out, making a half-office around the desk.The two panels hold cubby holes for storing documents and shelves for books.
Rotary desks, writing armchairs, and sofabeds in the late 19th century responded to need for compact furniture.
The catalog points out that a key invention for comfort was the coiled inner spring, introduced by Samuel Pratt in 1828. The coil provides a controlled, resilient support. Spring construction was first used in railroad car seats and later in parlor furniture. The cast iron spring chair in the exhibit was made in 1849 by Thomas E. Warren of Troy, N.Y.
In the early 1800's Samuel Gragg of Boston may have been first to bend wood under steam pressure. Michael Thonet's bentwood industry in Austria came later. The exhibit shows Gragg's 1808 side chair of ash, oak, maple and beech, known as "gragg's elastic chair."
Latex foam was invented in 1928 and used by Gilbert Rohde for his modular designs. The invention of plywood -- layers of veneer plyed together with the grains running crosswise -- led to the experimental chairs of Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames in 1940.
Illustrating today's innovative bentweed furniture is a red oak and poplar armchair made in 1976 by Peter Danko of Alexandria, Va. Danko's chair is one of the first plywood chairs made out of a single sheet of liminated wood.