Most of us either own a La-Z-boy recliner or know a friend or family member who does. The innovative chair design was invented during the spring of 1928, about the same time Dr. Fleming discovered penicillin, Mickey Mouse starred in the first talkie cartoon, “Steamboat Willie,” and Lawrence Welk started intoxicating America with his champagne bubble band.
Edward Knabusch & Edwin Shoemaker Invent La-Z-Boy
Cousins Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker designed a wood slat outdoor folding chair from orange crates – the first La-Z-Boy recliner. A comfortable concept, the chair followed the contour of a person’s body, both sitting up and leaning back.
In 1927, the cousins abandoned secure jobs, joined forces, and invested in their own furniture business in Monroe, Michigan. Suddenly, Knabusch, a woodworker, turned into a marketer, and Shoemaker, originally a farmer, became an engineer. The locals thought they were crazy, but the Floral City Furniture Company flourished.
La-Z-Boy Moves off the Porch and into the Living Room
An important furniture buyer refused to purchase any La-Z-Boys from the cousins because at that time La-Z-Boys while very comfortable, were only seasonal porch chairs. The buyer advised the inventors to upholster the chair and sell it as a year-round piece. They did, and the new La-Z-Boy chair swept the public off their feet. With financial help from friends and family, Knabusch and Shoemaker patented their invention and registered their trademarks.
Automatic Adjustable Chair – Not a Good Name
In 1931, Knabusch and Shoemaker received a patent for the first automatic recliner. However, the inventors realized they needed a better name for their recliner originally called the automatic adjustable chair. A naming contest was held with the seven employees of the Floral City Furniture Company. Comfort Carrier, the Slack-Back and the Sit-N-Snooze were all runners-up. La-Z-Boy was the winning name.
The Competition Gets Uncomfortable with La-Z-Boy
Business was brisk, however, other furniture manufacturers complained about Floral City Furniture Company being both a retailer and manufacturer. In 1941, the cousins separated the La-Z-Boy reclining chair factory from Floral City Furniture.
With only a brief slow-down during World War II, the La-Z-Boy Chair Company continued to grow, adding new furniture pieces and changing designs to suit the times. La-Z-Boy workers now make more than 30,000 chairs and sofas each week—that’s 6,000 a day.