On April 17, 1790, Washington paid New York cabinetmaker Thomas Burling £7 for this ingeniously-engineered "Uncommon Chair." It combines the sleek, contemporary design of a French bergère en gondole (or barrel-back upholstered armchair) with a unique swivel mechanism that allows the circular seat to rotate on four bone rollers. Washington must have found the chair to be ergonomically pleasing, as he used it throughout his presidency and for the remainder of his life. Following his return to Mount Vernon in March 1797, he placed it in his Study along with the tambour secretary he acquired from John Aitken in Philadelphia.


Circular or bergère-type leather-upholstered armchair with revolving seat that is kept in place by a central metal pin or bolt in its frame and rests on four rollers (one set into the top of each leg in an iron frame). Veneered back rail and serpentine-molded arm fronts with veneered sides. Opening between back and seat. Veneered circular chair frame with square tapered legs and short spade or therm feet. Upholstered in old leather secured with tacks.

Alternate names for this form include: whirligig chair, rotating chair, revolving desk chair and swivel chair.

Additional construction info: Seat frame of three horizontal laminations. Cross braces (on top and bottom frames) dovetailed into seat frame.






Mahogany, mahogany veneer (primary), white oak (secondary, frame), iron, metal, bone, leather, brass


Overall: 39 3/8 in. (100.01 cm)
Overall (Seat): 17 1/2 in. x 24 3/4 in. x 24 1/8 in. (44.45 cm x 62.87 cm x 61.28 cm)
Overall (arm to arm): 27 in. (68.58 cm)
Overall (front of seat to furthest part of back of chair)): 32 in. (81.28 cm)

Credit Line

Purchase, 1905

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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