Trial Run

The Children's Furniture

The present lot includes one of only two tables known to come to market in the past 30 or 40 years.

Pieces from the collection of children’s furniture designed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1945 are the earliest forms to be produced by the duo. There was only one initial trial production run of the children’s line and of these, most were two-piece plywood chairs and single-piece stools. Various correspondences between Charles Eames and Hans Knoll dating to 1945 refer only to the children’s chairs and stools suggesting that the table may have never been more widely produced. The precise number of each of the forms is unknown, however today very few examples of the child’s table remain. In fact, the present lot, comprised of a pair of stools and table, is a very rare set; it includes one of only two tables known to come to market in the past 30 or 40 years, the other example sold by the New York gallery Fifty/50 sometime during the 1980s, and it is the only known set of children’s furniture. 

The children’s furniture designs marked the first attempt for a larger production run of the experimental development of molded plywood chairs designed by the Eames. The small scale of the table, chair and stools as well as the ease of construction allowed Molded Plywood and Evans Products to slowly transition into the manufacturing of furniture and to find the best methods for production. Further, these pieces were the first consumer goods produced by the industrial supply company and marketing the works was a new challenge.

Patents issued for the child’s stool and table

Evans Products hired Alfred Auerbach to develop a marketing campaign for the revolutionary children’s furniture. In 1945 Auerbach coordinated a press preview of Evans Products at the Barclay Hotel in New York followed by an exhibition of the collection at The Architectural League in 1946. It was through these shows that George Nelson, director of Herman Miller, would first view the plywood chairs and that Eliot Noyes would coordinate the one-man exhibition, New Furniture Designs by Charles Eames at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The exhibition, on view the 13th – 31st of March 1946, included fifteen works and among these, all three of the children’s furniture forms.

From the collection of William Ritchie, Evan's Product's Eastern Sales Manager, these pieces have remained together since their acquisition in the mid-1940s.

The works from the children’s furniture line were sold directly to clients and through a handful of small shops including those run by the Eames’ Cranbrook associates, Alexander Girard and Kitty Weese. Ultimately, the pieces didn’t fit with already established categories for the sale of furniture and demand was minimal so additional production runs of these forms never came to fruition. The children’s furniture set offered here comes from the collection of William Ritchie, Evans Products’ Eastern Sales Manager and they have remained together since their acquisition in the mid-1940s. Ritchie was in close communication with Charles Eames as Evans Products searched for a company to take over the distribution of the Eames line of furniture. It was in a letter from Ritchie, dated June 26th, 1946 that the Eames learned that Herman Miller has been selected to carry their works.  

The production of the children’s furniture opened the door for the mass-production and distribution of the Eames plywood designs.

Despite the use of molded plywood by designers such as Marcel Breuer and Alvar Aalto as early as the 1930s, the Eames designs illustrate an advancement of technology. Each of the works in the collection feature uniformity of material as well as compound curves for strength. The chair was constructed of two pieces joined by three rivets while the designs offered here are each formed from a single sheet of laminated birch. The production of the children’s furniture was short-lived, yet these pieces opened the door for the mass-production and distribution of the Eames plywood designs such as the DCW, LCW and CTW.   

...a compound of aesthetic brilliance and technical inventiveness.

Eliot Noyes