With a curvaceous wooden frame supporting a strong but springy cantilevered seat, the 1935 Air Line chair should have made Kem Weber an unforgettable figure of American modern design. It was a ground-breaking creation, gaining its strength from slender rails beneath the armrests that distributed stresses across the entire frame. More important, Weber designed it to be packed flat in a box and assembled at home without tools-a concept that wouldn’t be popularized by Ikea until more than two decades later.
Today, Weber is relatively unknown outside collecting circles, but his chair is in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum ofArt, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Nevertheless, it was a commercial flop-a story common to many of his most innovative ideas. When manufacturers across the country expressed little interest in producing the chair, Weber began making them himself, but he only ever sold a few hundred examples.