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Jacob & Josef Kohn

Jacob and Josef Kohn contributed to 19th and 20th-century furniture history through steam-era innovations in production and manufacturing. They are most known today for their Bentwood collection of chairs and rocking chairs. J. & J. Kohn received numerous awards for its work, including a Grand Prix at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle, and the company is internationally recognized as a leading furniture manufacturer of the early 20th century. In 1867, this Austrian father-son team opened J. & J. Kohn in Vienna. Their furniture production firm would partner with leading architects and designers such as Josef Hoffman, Hans Prutscher and Otto Wagner, up until well past the turn of the next century. Gustav Siegel, who had studied at the Vienna School of Applied Arts, was appointed head of the firm’s design department. He oversaw many of the designs and production pieces from 1899 to 1914. The Kohns applied machine processes of steaming, softening and bending to make furniture and chairs conform to the curves of the human back. This Bentwood Collection was produced on an industrial scale, far more efficiently than previously available. While bentwood steaming for furniture had been invented by celebrated builder Michael Thonet a few decades earlier, J. & J. Kohn's advances in machinery streamlined Thonet's hours-long curing and bending process to about five minutes per piece. With four factories, the Kohns produced more than 5,000 Bentwood pieces per day, often imitating Thonet’s designs and model numbers, successfully putting these classic works into wide circulation.