True Stuff: The Grizzly-Bear Chair

Allyson B. sent me this picture of a BEAR CHAIR:


The caption reads: “THE GRIZZLY-BEAR CHAIR. Presented, Sept. 8, 1865, to Andrew Johnson, President U.S., by Seth Kinman, the California Hunter and Trapper.”

Google is our friend today! Here is an article that explains that the Grizzly-Bear Chair had a feature in which “by touching a cord, the head of the monster grizzly bear, with jaws extended, would dart out in front from under the seat, snapping and gnashing its teeth.” There are lots more pictures at that link, too!

And here’s the NY Times from December 9, 1885:


From the San Francisco Call, Nov. 29.

A unique character is Seth Kinman, the grizzly bear hunter and Presidential chair presenter, now stopping in this city. He is a tall man, 70 years old, straight as an arrow, dressed in buckskin from head to foot, with long silver hair, beard, and shaggy eyebrows, under which and his immense hat a pair of keen eyes peer sharply.

He is the Nimrod of this coast, the great elk shooter and grizzly bear hunter of California, who has presented elk horns and grizzly bear claws from animals that have fallen before his unerring rifle to four Presidents of the United States — Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson, and Hayes — and has “the finest of all” to present to President Cleveland next Spring. He claims to have shot in all more than 800 grizzlies…

[…] The chair presented to President Johnson was made of the bones and hide of a grizzly.

Mr. Kinman is quite a violinist, and has several instruments — one of his own manufacture, the neck of which is made from one of the bones of the head of a favorite mule, that was very fond of his playing and would leave its feed to listen to him every time. The bow used with it is string with hairs from the musical mule’s tail.

Apparently this guy was quite the character, a real celebrity of his day. Kinman Pond in northern California is named for him. For much more of Kinman’s “grizzly bar huntin'” and “Injun skelpin'”, here’s a lengthy feature on the hunter in the 1903 book California Sketches.

But I guess I’m most interested in this guy’s fixation with chairs. He is the most fearsome bear hunter and Indian fighter in the West, and he is best known for making absurd chairs for Presidents.

“Yeah, I kilt me some Injuns,” he spits, his icy eyes peering out from beneath his furry hat, “but what I’m mos’ proud of is that recliner I done made for Rutherford B. Hayes.”

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