Bean Bags: A Historical Overview

Now available in a variety of colors, shapes, and fabrics, bean bags have evolved from fanciful furniture and toys for youngsters.

They are everywhere—in classrooms, resorts, businesses, cafés, movie theaters, celebrity residences, indoors or out, on boats or pool decks, and more.

How did the bean bag become a cultural icon from a chair?

They've been a conversation starter for the past half-century as furniture, but historians say they had an intriguing history as a game component or pastime in ancient times.

The bean bag's history is intriguing and controversial—who knew? Read this article slowly—you won't regret it.

The Bean Bag's Strange Origins and Debate

Historical Overview of Bean Bag

The bean bag's origins are unknown and controversial. This is because the bean bag is simple but versatile. If the bean bag is considered furniture, it didn't hit the market until the 1950s. They may have originated in ancient Egypt about 4,000 years before the 1960s.

Bean bag camp: which do you identify with? If you believe bean bags are old, let's dig deeper.

How Did Ancient People Use Bean Bags?

Whether the bean bag's roots are correct or not, the topic is fun, engaging, and enlightening, and few people know anything about it.

Did you know jugglers, game designers, and tai chi practitioners used bean bags? Bean bags' rich and long history is extraordinary.

Ancient Egyptian Beanbags

One historian thinks the ancient Egyptians invented bean bags around 2000 B.C.

Egyptians played with leather bags containing dry beans or stones for millennia. Early jugglers worldwide practiced with them.

Do I say something? Contemporary culture still loves bean bag juggling.

Indigenous Peoples and Bean Bags

Bean bags were also used by Great Plains Native Americans. Several indigenous groups filled pig bladders with dry beans for fun. One of these games inspired "Cornhole".

It may surprise you that "Cornhole," sometimes known as "Bean Bag Toss," still played today.

A elevated board with a hole is used for this lawn game where players take turns throwing bags. Four-player teams or two players can compete. Your buddy and you throw bean bags at the board to fill the hole. A bag in the hole earns three points instead of one on the board. Whoever gets 21 points first wins.

Ancient Chinese Beanbags

Tai chi, a 12th-century Chinese martial technique, was first taught with bean bags.

Tai chi combines your mind and body by training you to control your breathing and movements, building strength, awareness, and tranquility. Taiji aims to create a strong and harmonious flow of qi, or life force, throughout the body.

Tai chi practitioners started carrying sand, stones, or dry beans. They kept the bags in the air and focused on their inner strength with calm, graceful movements by striking them with different areas of their bodies.

This 1937 clip shows a tai chi master kick bean bags. "Footbag," sometimes known as "Hacky Sack," is reportedly modeled on this.

Do I say something? We play footbag, often known as "Hacky Sack," today. Two or more players play this game with a bean bag ball. Stand in a circle and kick the bag to keep it off the ground for as long as possible.


Development of Seating Bean Bags

Although bean bags were used for leisure in ancient times, the first bean bag chair did not arrive until the 1960s. The people that made this extraordinarily comfy furniture and their process are listed below.

"The Marine Urchin" The Royal College of Art employed English artist, designer, and publisher William Roger Dean (Roger Dean).

One of his early successes, the "Sea Urchin Chair" was completed in 1967 and patented in 1968. It predated the bean bag chair since it was filled with foam blocks instead of beads.

The chair is in London's Victoria & Albert Museum's permanent collection.

"Resides in a chair in the form of a ball like or spheroidal structure formed of deform-able material having a resilience such that when it rests it is self-supporting but will deform under load," says Roger Dean's Sea Urchin Chair patent.


The bean bag invention

According to the patent, FIGURE 1 shows a chair device with dome and panel portions arranged in perspective.

Bean bag innovation details

Figure 2 shows the chair from Figure 1 at rest in a vertical position, per the patent.

The Sacco

The "Sacco" was the first bean bag chair, a pear-shaped leather chair filled with Styrofoam beans. This design has modern variants.

In 1967 and 1968, the Sacco was created and debuted after the Sea Urchin in 1969.

It was designed by Zanotta Design and three Italian architects—Cesare Paolini, Piero Gatti, and Franco Teodoro. Designers were asked to create a comfortable, unique, and low-maintenance chair.

They used cheaper polystyrene and other polymers since they made the chair during the "Italian Modernism movement" that followed WWII and used new technology, materials, and manufacturing processes.

Sacco, a shapeless chair, was the outcome.

First-ever bean bags
A Classic Designer Bean Bag. - "Don Sacco"

Piero Gatti highlighted the bean bag in a 1988 interview:

Many of us wanted to make items that could bend and form to fit different settings and physical arrangements. You should choose a chair that can be used for these purposes. We imagined a substance like snow—you bury your fingers into it and leave an imprint—or water that might adjust to the body's positions.

The Sacco was a "anti-design" for hippies and non-conforming households, criticizing conservative tastes and offering a "non-chair" to fight conformity.

Despite design changes, the Sacco's shapeless shell, when filled, resembled a pear, showcasing its Italian heritage. The shell was made of leather, which Italian designers favored.

The Sacco's unique design moved its users closer to the floor, allowing them to lie in more relaxed positions—perfect for the laid-back, socially acceptable era of non-conforming identities. It was a hit with American and European hippies.

Macy's ordered 10,000 pieces after its viral success. The Sacco remained a renowned icon in the 1970s.


The Bean Bag's '70s Boom

Bean bags became popular in the 1970s thanks to marketing. They were mass-produced worldwide and sold in all major department stores.

A bean bag is likely in any First World country's living room. Sacco still created a lot of chairs, but other manufacturers were creating nylon or polyester chairs.

Expanded polystyrene (EPS) beans, one of several 1970s bean bag fillers that were stronger and last longer, are currently used.

Most bean bags were spherical, but the fashionable colors and patterns were wild.

The lightweight and versatile bean bag chairs immediately became popular among professional interior designers and decorators, expanding their customer base. They were prescribed to patients recovering from back surgery, and therapists and caretakers noticed they helped kids with sensory-integration disorders.


The Needed 1980s and 1990s Bean Bag Revival

Bean bag popularity fluctuated in the 20th century. New furniture patterns, especially in the 1980s, made bean bags less appealing. However, many manufacturers, notably cheap bean bag makers, kept making them.

The bean bags' stuffing suffocated several kids, who suffered injuries or death.

When it was trendy again in the 1990s, the bean bag chair came back. It appeared in beds, recliners, sofas, and the iconic spherical shape.

The last decade's child deaths prompted European, American, and Australian governments to require all new bean bags to be childproof. This includes childproof zippers to prevent kids from opening and climbing into bags.

After an upsurge in inhalation-related injuries and deaths, the authorities recalled and redesigned approximately 12,000,000 bean bags. As of March 1995, bags had to be designed to protect children from inhaling beans.


Contemporary Culture and Bean Bags : Modern Day

Given their stratospheric surge in popularity, bean bags are making a triumphant return to fashion. The various built-in safety features and rigorous durability test they undergo during production make these stylish and eye-catching pieces of furniture as safe for youngsters as any other in your home.

They come in practically endless sizes, shapes, and colors, making them excellent for indoor or outdoor use. High-end and cheap materials are offered. You can use them for yourself and your pet's bed!

As seen at: they are also used for business.

• Schools • Restaurants • Nightclubs • Hotels and motels • And more!


In summary

In its 50-year history, the bean bag chair has evolved from the "Sacco," a pear-shaped leather chair.

With the huge options now, finding the right bean bag for you, your child, tween, or adolescent, your dog, your business, or any event is easy. Customize your bean bag with your brand or design and any size, shape, color, or fabric.

Bean bags are now luxuries and interior designers' dreams, far from their 1970s hippie roots. They are in celebrities' houses, hospitals, businesses, schools, movie theaters, and many other amazing occasions.

Remember that the bean bag inspired ancient pastimes like juggling, cornhole (bean bag toss), footbag (hacky sack), and tai chi.

Bliss Bean Bags is proud of its high-quality fabric, which won't fade and will revitalize any indoor or outdoor setting. We guarantee our bean bags for life since they're built to last.

What more could you want from a classic piece of furniture with comfort, durability, and support?

Therefore, get a bean bag.

This timeless, high-quality furniture will survive for seasons.