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December 25, 2020
The earliest records of wheeled furniture was an inscription found on a stone slate in China and a child’s bed depicted in afrieze on a Greek vase, both dating back to the 5th century BCE.
The first records of wheeled seats being used for transporting the disabled date to three centuries later in China; the Chinese used their invented wheelbarrow to move people as well as heavy objects.
A distinction between the two functions was not made for another several hundred years, around 525 CE, when images of wheeled chairs made specifically to carry people begin to occur in Chinese art.
Later dates relate to Europeans using this technology during the German Renaissance.
The invalid carriage or Bath Chair seems to date from around 1760.
In 1887, wheelchairs ("rolling chairs") were introduced to Atlantic City so invalid tourists could rent them to enjoy the Boardwalk. Soon, many healthy tourists also rented the decorated "rolling chairs" and servants to push them as a show of decadence and treatment they could never experience at home.
Harry Jennings and his disabled friend Herbert Everest, both mechanical engineers, invented the first lightweight, steel, collapsible wheelchair in 1933. Everest had broken his back in a mining accident.
The two saw the business potential of the invention and went on to become the first mass-manufacturers of wheelchairs: Everest and Jennings. Their "x-brace" design is still in common use, albeit with updated materials and other improvements.