The Austrian bentwood furniture designed by Michael Thonet (1796-1871) was among the 19th century's most original contributions to furniture development. Thonet used the techniques of steam-bending and the pliable nature of beech wood to make chairs, tables, hallstands, cots and so on. The furniture was simple in form, light in weight, elegant and capable of being mass produced, so that bentwood furniture was exported to many parts of the world, including Australia, following its success at the 1851 Great Exhibition. Thonet chairs, and those made by his competitor Kohn, often have paper trade labels pasted on the inside seat rail. Thonet was not the first to apply the techniques of steam bending to furniture. It was used, for example, during the 18th century by the Windsor chair makers to construct bow back or hoop back chairs, and the arched crinoline stretchers but he was the first to exploit it on such a vast commercial scale.
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