Cramer's History

Our story begins in 1886, when an entrepreneur named J.W. Cramer set out to create the Cramer Bros. Safe Company in Kansas City, Missouri. Twenty-two Presidents and over 125 years later, his commitment to serve the needs of businesses near and far is still going strong at Cramer. We are proud of our rich history — from the company's remarkable efforts to support our country in World War II, to the many innovations that helped advance the comfort and productivity of the modern workplace. It's been a fantastic journey and we're eager to write the next chapter.

The beginning

In 1886, J.W. Cramer traveled from West Virginia to Kansas City to establish the Cramer Bros. Safe Company, specializing in the marketing and manufacture of safes, vault doors, and safety deposit boxes – all his original designs. His two sons, Jess and Roy, took over the business during the Depression era. Roy's two sons also joined the family firm – Roy Jr. in sales, Harold in the shop.

The Posture Chair

Harold left Cramer in 1930 to work in the office furniture industry. There he learned about posture chairs, which despite the Depression were in high demand as more American workers migrated from the fields and farms into office jobs.

While the posture chair offered adjustability and back support, Harold came to understand its shortcomings – the tools were tricky to operate, and the nuts and bolts often fell off during use. A year later, Harold returned to Cramer and there led the development of a new, improved concept in office seating.

In 1934, the Cramer Posture Chair was born, featuring an adjustable upholstered seat and back. When Harold demonstrated the chair for J.C. Hall, President of Hallmark Cards, Inc., he was greatly impressed, and Hallmark would go on to buy thousands.

The safe business was sold in 1940, and the newly-named Cramer, Inc. staked its future on product innovation – chairs designed to support the posture and comfort of every seated worker.

The war years

In 1941, Cramer put this new focus to good use, devoting its major manufacturing facilities to the rapid production of specialty chairs for the US war effort. Cramer designed crew chairs for heavy bomber airplanes, gunner chairs for Navy battleships, and non-magnetic chairs for minesweepers. For excellence in quality and delivery, Cramer earned the Military "E" award from the Defense Department.

From the second half of 1942 until the War Acts of 1945, Cramer produced only wood chairs to preserve metal. Cramer resumed commercial chair production in 1946, becoming the first company to introduce all-aluminum office and industrial chairs with contoured and dished styling designs. Other manufacturers could not copy these designs quickly since only Cramer had the expertise to cast aluminum parts by permanent-mold process. In 1948, Cramer aluminum chairs were accepted as a standard by the United Nations for its new headquarters under construction in New York City.

Post-war innovation

In the 1950's, Cramer led the industry with seating innovations that added the first real ergonomics to seating for workers in challenging task environments.

Cramer engineers found their inspiration in the everyday. The coils of an automobile seat inspired the design of the synchro-tilt mechanism, which provides a smooth, comfortable ride in a variety of seated postures. Cramer developed flex seating after watching bookkeepers struggle to sit at their large adding machines. The first drop-front seat that flexed down was born. And Cramer introduced latex foam to office seating.

Cramer engineers also devised the concept of the "ladder bell", a retractable caster with a circular housing placed on a ladder to protect the casters and ladder legs. A few years later, a life-size version of the ladder bell itself became the Kik-Step®, the original rolling-step stool. To date, Cramer has sold more than four million Kik-Steps.

In 1962, Cramer introduced the first automatic seat height adjustment control named the Auto-Lift™. This innovation paved the way for gas cylinder controls as a standard adjustment in the industry.

In 1968, Cramer developed and introduced the first Cleanroom and Electrostatic Dissipating (ESD) chairs for scientific labs dealing with electronic, pharmaceutical, armament, and surgical production.

A new beginning

Charles W. Oswald, a successful entrepreneur and native of Hutchinson, Kansas, purchased a controlling interest in Cramer in 1986. Four years later, Cramer introduced Triton®, a workhorse intensive use chair that has carved out a commanding position in that market that remains today.

In 2003, Oswald put a new management team in place at Cramer, led by President Nick Christianson. Together they enacted operational and business changes, undertook a complete corporate re-branding, and re-launched Cramer's commitment to research and development.

In 2009, Christianson, along with a group of veteran investors, purchased Cramer LLC. The next year, Cramer introduced ever®, the new standard for strength, durability and sustainability in intensive use seating.

The future

Cramer remains committed to being the industry leader in seating for challenging environments. Throughout our 125 year history, our product innovation and our growth have been driven by the needs of the American worker.

Today Cramer provides innovative, durable task seating solutions in healthcare, higher education, technical, industrial and security environments — remaining true to our founding principles and carrying our proud traditions forward.