Bentwood furniture was not invented by Michael Thonet (1798-1871), but he perfected a method for mass production. In 1819, in Boppard, Germany, he opened his cabinetmaking business, and by 1840 he had invented the steam-softening technique for bending rods of hardwood into flowing yet structurally solid shapes. There are just six sections and screws in his all-time classic, Model No.14. Thonet’s process was much cheaper than the conventional carving and casting processes. It sold for .75 cents at the end of the Nineteenth Century. After Thonet’s patents expired in 1869, this chair, one of five similar designs, was widely copied. By 1886, more than 40 million chairs were sold.
Stimpson, M. (1997). Modern furniture classics. Whitney Library of Design.