The Untold History of Bean Bags


A Bean bag is not just a sac filled with beans. Bean bag has a long history and is prepared with new techniques to give extra comfort for users. 

There is some evidence that proves the bean bag concept is not a new thing. People used the relatively same concept in the ancient era too. 

When looking back at the bean bag’s evaluation, there are remarkable periods. However, a few decades ago, it was officially invented and produced commercially. 

In the 21st century, bean bags are rapidly gaining popularity in our cultures. Also, most people accept bean bags as a viable alternative to traditional furniture.

History is a mystery. So, do you know how the bean bag started its journey and became a historical icon? Let’s explore the history. 

history of bean bags

When Were Bean Bags Chairs Invented?

In the ancient era, people needed a chair that was stylish, comfortable, and fit with the ’60s lifestyle. So, then the designers tried to make a different type of furniture.

Italy was a major country that needed to go for modernization. Thus, after Second World War, they tried innovations with new technologies and materials. At that period, polystyrene and other plastics affordably were manufactured.

In 60s, Cesare Paolini, Piero Gatti, and Franco Teodoro are worked at Furniture Company. They mainly created Zanotta Design in Italy. At that time, Trio was asked to make an aesthetically appealing, comfortable, and unique chair. So, that responsibility was given to Franco Teodoro. 

Then, Cesare Paolini, Piero Gatti, and Franco Teodoro created the world’s first bean bag chair called the Sacco. It was released in 1969. Later, the Sacco was considered as a significant part of the art movement known as Italian modernism. 

Sacco is a shapeless chair. It was initially filled with Thermocol pellets. But after a few years, manufacturers have replaced it with polystyrene beads. 

Also, Socco was covered with leather shells. This leather outer cover resembles the pear shape. In the 60s, leather was a material that was used to show off peoples’ pride. 

However, initially, the bean bag chair’s target market was hippies. Because hippies loved to have a relaxed lifestyle, they also did not like to jail in the norms established in previous generations. Because of these reasons, Socco is ideally fitted to hippie societies. 

After few years, this innovative chair became a trendy item. Because it was the first chair that adjusted to the person’s body shape, additionally, it was allowed a variety of lounging positions and casual social lifestyles. More than that, it placed the user close to the floor.  

The Sea Urchin

William Roger Dean invented a sea urchin chair in 1967, one year before the Sacco chair was produced. Also, William Roger got a patent for the sea urchin chair in 1968. 

Sea urchin chair was very similar to the Sacco. It has a spherical outer shell made of synthetic material. But the Sea Urchin was filled with individual blocks of foam. So, the inner fillers of this chair acted as cushions.

It has a self-supporting resilient ball-like structure. So, when someone sits there, it can adjust to his posture. 

Because the Sea Urchin chair does not consist of bean beads, it cannot be considered the first bean bag chair. 

That’s why people consider the Sacco chair as the first bean bag. However, this sea urchin chair had the somewhat relative concept of the bean bag. So, we should thanks William Roger too for this concept. 

Bean Bags in the 1970s

In the 1970s, bean bags became one of the most famous icons. Thus, a large number of manufactures worldwide commercially produced them. In this period, it was challenging to found wealthy households that did not have bean bags. 

Rather than a leather bean bag, manufacturers tended to produced bean bags with newer materials. Nylon and polyester cotton, canvas, and corduroy were popular fabrics in this period. 

In this decade, the world had several innovations. Manufacturers used eye-catching bright colors and designed fabrics for bean bags. They mainly produce spherical designs. However, most of them used cheap and inexpensive affordable materials for bean bags. 

Although, Bean bags with filling alternatives were used in this era. In the 60s, extruded polystyrene was commonly used. But in the 70s, manufacturers discovered that expanded polystyrene (EPS) was more resilient and durable.

Bean Bags in the 1980s and 1990s 

In this time period, the popularity of bean bags declined significantly. But few companies still being manufactured bean bags.

Also, in this era, cheap bean bags were common in the market. Moreover, there were some records of children’s accidents and death because of unsafe bean bags. Thus, people refused to use bean bags and considered them hazardous furniture types. 

Because of death records, the United States, Europe, and Australia authorities were involved in the bean bag manufacturing process. They established manufacturing safety standards for bean bags. These standards mainly focus on toddlers and infants. 

So, bean bags were developed with safety zippers, fire-resistant fabrics, and fillers in this period.

History of the Bean Bag Usage in Egypt 

As I mentioned above, bean bags were commercially launched in the 1960s. But if I said ancient Egyptian also used bean bags, do you believe me? Yes, there is a mystery of bean bags history. 

No matter what is ultimately true about the history of bean bags. It is fun to explore a curious topic. Let’s discover further how bean bags evolved. 

Bean bags can be traced back more than four thousand years to ancient Egypt. Not only Egyptians some other ancient people also used bean bags.

History of Bean Bag Usage of Native Americans 

The native Americans live in the great plains of the United States. So, there are some records regarding their usage of furniture like a bean bag.

The Native Americans used several tribes, including Blackhawks, pig bladders, and dried beans, to play a game of Cornhole. Do you know Cornhole? It is also known as “bean bag toss.”  

This game has a board with a large hole. It is placed horizontally on the ground, and one side of the board is more elevated. So, two-person or teams can play this game.

In here, Native Americans used bean bags to toss at the board. If the bean bag reaches the hole, that team or person gets 3 points. The first team who scores 21 marks will win the game. 

Likewise, Native Americans used the relatively same concept of bean bags for their games. 

History of the Bean Bag in Ancient China

Bean bag was a famous training tool that students of Tai Chi used in the 12th century in China. Tai chi is a martial art that develops the internal power of humans. Also, it is used for self-defense and to improve health.  

Moreover, the martial art masters used small pouches filled with sand, dry beans, and small rocks. Then, these bags were kept in the air by striking them with various parts of the body. 

In addition to that, there is an old video of martial art practices. The video dating back to 1937 shows the practitioner kicking one of the bean bags. So, it also proves this.

How are Bean Bag Chairs Made?

Do you know the most important fact of any product? It is a concept. Or else it can describe as imagination or idea. Generally, ancient people prepared a sphere shape or round shape ball-like structure to sit. 

They knew that shape could give extra comfort while tolerating body weight. Moreover, when bean bags were invented that people had a good idea about ergonomics too. So, they tried to provide better solutions and a sitting experience to users rather than a rigid chair. 

In the ancient period, they mainly used leather for bean bags. But over time, manufacturers use different fabrics to make bean bags.

Moreover, in the beginning, the company used foam or extruded polystyrene balls to fill the bean bag. But with the technological evaluation, they use improved and quality fillers like expanded polystyrene. 

The modern bean bag-making process is relatively the same as ancient practices. But these days have a massive number of designs, shapes, and sizes. 

Moreover that, modern bean bags are equipped with developed technologies like ergonomics and quality standards. But the very first initiative design mainly focuses on the siting experience. 

Final Words

As an anything, bean bag also has a long journey. From the concept invention, there are many people give their collaboration to improve the bean bag. That’s why now it is become this much of comfortable and safe furniture. So, studying the history of bean bags gives us a better understanding. 

Sarah Williams

I’m Sarah Williams. A true fan of Bean Bag Chairs. The story of Bean Bags Expert goes to beginning of 2016. At the mid of 2016, I have planned the web site and bought this domain. Slowly this grew up like a little kid.

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