Folding chairs were already being used in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. The curule chair of the Roman magistrate was a folding chair, as well as the seat of the emperor. The frame was mostly made of wood, and seldomly made of metal. The wood was inlaid with artistic carvings, gilded, and decorated with ivory.
In Northern Europe, folding chairs date back to the bronze age.
The folding chair became especially widespread during the middle ages. Here it was treasured as a liturgical furniture piece. Since the 15th and 16th century the folding chair has mostly had arm and head rests.
Of course, newer chairs which are often found in functions and events are also called folding chairs. Today, the folding chair is mostly made of hard plastic or metal.
Nathaniel Alexander an African American inventor, patented the folding chair.
On July 7, 1911 Nathaniel Alexander of Lynchburg, Virginia patented a folding chair. According to his patent, Nathaniel Alexander designed his chair to be used in schools, churches, and other auditoriums. His design included a book rest that was usable for the person sitting in the seat behind and was ideal for church or choir use. Below you can view the patent drawing of Nathaniel Alexander's folding chair.
Patent number #997,108 was granted on July 4, 1911.