by James Rada, Jr., photography by Bill Ryan
When Britney Spears is singing about how a breakup made her “Stronger,” she dances on and around a plain looking metal chair. The song could also be an anthem for the chair, which is the classic Emeco Navy Chair.
“This chair would survive incredible amounts of torture before it would ever die,” Gregg Buchbinder, Emeco CEO, said in a CBS This Morning segment.
The Navy Chair is the first and bestselling of the 88 chairs made by Emeco, which is located in Hanover. Its design made it popular with designers such as Ettore Sottsass, Giorgio Armani, and Phillippe Starck.
“Wilton C. Dinges founded Emeco (Electric Machine and Equipment Company) in 1940 in Hanover, Pennsylvania. During WWII the U.S government gave him a big assignment – make chairs that could withstand water, salt air and sailors. Make chairs lightweight and make them strong, build them for a lifetime, Buchbinder told Hanover Magazine.
That first 1006 Navy Chair set the standard that all of the other Emeco chairs since have followed. They not only met the government’s needs, but they were made from recycled aluminum as part of a partnership with Alcoa.
After WWII, the company began to expand with new designs for new uses. Emeco also partnered with other companies and well-known designers to introduce new, more-stylish designs. Prices range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand dollars for these chairs, which are virtually indestructible.
The company also expanded its use of recycled materials to more than just aluminum.
“In 2010 when we launched the 111 Navy Chair, made of 111 recycled Coca Cola plastic bottles, we began an exploration of recycled, reclaimed, and repurposed materials. Our purpose is to make responsible products for a better planet,” Buchbinder told Hanover Magazine.
“Emeco has a loyal dedicated workforce of craftsmen and managers, many of whom have been with us for over 30 years,” said Buchbinder.
Today, Emeco is a staple in the Hanover business community with its chairs sold in 60 countries.
- The Hudson chair, a collaboration between Starck and Emeco, is part of a permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art.
- Wilton Carlyle Dinges opened Emeco in 1944 and employed local steel workers.
- Emeco stands for Electrical Machine and Equipment Company.
- Emeco’s chairs are American made and often by hand.
- The company’s first job was to build a chair that would hold up under the myriad of uses the U.S. Navy would subject it to during World War II.
- Emeco’s process to turn aluminum into something strong enough for a chair takes 77 steps.
- Since 2010 more than 17 million plastic bottles have been kept out of landfills because they have been recycled for use in Emeco chairs.
- All Emeco chairs come with a lifetime guarantee.
- Emeco Europe is based in Milan, Italy.
- Emeco chairs are made from a variety of products including recycled aluminum, a wood/polypropylene blend, and recycled glass bottles and calcium sulfoaluminate cement.