Chair Company is named as an homage to the Wisconsin Chair Company, a large furniture factory that opened in Port Washington (just north of Milwaukee) in 1889. In the early 1900s, they built the wooden cabinets that housed Edison phonograph record players and eventually made their own phonographs as well.
During this era, the recording process involved a group of musicians playing or singing into a large phonograph horn attached to a needle that etched the sound waves into a wax cylinder or disc that could be reproduced and played back later—no microphones or electronics were involved.
In 1918, the Wisconsin Chair Company began recording music in their Port Washington furniture factory and releasing it under the Paramount Records label. Paramount Records originally released the typical pop music of the day and had limited success, but they were eventually contracted to press records for Black Swan Records. Producer Ink Williams brought many prominent early jazz and blues musicians to Wisconsin to record at the factory, including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Skip James, and Alice Moore. The records were labeled as "New York Recording Laboratories, Inc." but were actually recorded in the Port Washington factory.
These jazz and blues recordings were lucrative for Paramount Records. Despite this, Paramount Records was unable to survive the Great Depression and closed in 1935. The metal master pressing plates were sold for scrap metal and disgruntled employees reportedly threw the remaining shellac records into the Milwaukee River. The Wisconsin Chair Company closed in 1959 and its large factory was demolished.
The old scratchy records made in the Port Washington factory are ghosts of an audible past and part of a history of music in Wisconsin that continues to be written at Chair Company today. Lawton Hall and Nathaniel Heuer built and founded Chair Company in 2016.