Museum Talk

Thursday, April 18, 2013
The high chairs of twins Vera and Era Clyatt are 100 years old.

Two identical baby high chairs are in the kitchen area of the Buffalo Island Museum. These chairs are almost 100 years old. They belonged to Vera and Era Clyatt who were born August 30, 1914. They were the daughters of Richard and Lucy Piercy Clyatt who lived in the Macey and Childress area. The birth of twins was very unusual in those days and the parents bought each girl an identical highchair. Through the years the highchairs have been used by other children born to family members, but they are still in remarkable condition for their age.

The girls attended Upper Macey School and later Childress School where they graduated in 1934 with Era as valedictorian and Vera as salutatorian. Vera never married, and Era married Thomas Swetnam in 1941. They had three children, Mary Lou, Clyann, and Tommy.

The high chairs were once again put in use, and used other times with grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Vera passed away in 1998 and Era in 2005. The family has taken care of these chairs throughout the 100 years and they have now found a permanent place in the museum.

Wooden high chairs have a long history and haven't changed much in design throughout the ages. The first patent for a baby high chair was issued Feb. 24, 1880, but I am certain that mothers throughout the ages found a way to sit their child at the family table. Whether used in a Royal nursery or a modest home, the high chair had one primary use...to allow the infant to dine at the table with the other family members. The design was simple with four legs, a seat with a sturdy back, and a tray in front.

The high chairs at the museum have a tray attached in a manner that lets them to be lifted over the head and swung up and back to the rear of the chair, thus making it easier to remove the child from the high chair. The back of the chairs have a carved design of leaves and flowers.

Early chairs were made of heavy wood as oak, pine, or maple. Some were plain and others had intricate carving. Today the high chairs are made from many materials as wood, stainless steel, chrome, and precast vinyl.

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