The Big Chair is truly “big”. So big that you could live on it – yes live on it. It seems the Curtis Brothers were always on the look-out for a way to lure people into their furniture story, always with a spectacular notion.
The dimensions of the chair’s seat are 9 feet by 8 feet. A glass company built a10 foot square cubicle and it was placed on the seat. The cubicle contained a bed, toilet, heater, air conditioner and a shower. It also had a balcony. The cubicle was designed to livable.
One afternoon a young woman went to the store to purchase furniture. Supposedly the woman was approached by a store manager who asked if she would live in the cubicle and be paid for doing so. The woman was named Rebecca Kirby, then a model known as Lynn Arnold. She was also the Washington Junior Chamber of Commerce’s “Miss Get Out the Vote 1960”. She met the image the Curtis Brothers sought. She had a Cinderella persona without being overly sexy.
Nineteen year old Kirby, who was a wife and mother, agreed. She needed the money to pay for a pending operation. The journey began with the Curtis Brothers giving Kirby $300 to shop for clothes. After all, you need to be stylish in a glass home.
Kirby moved “onto” the chair on August 13, 1960, a year after the chair was placed in its current locale. You’re probably wondering how Kirby got up to the seat of the chair. Well, she was raised by a forklift. And what does a person do 19 ½ feet high in a glass cubicle? They do the same thing they would do in any other home – read books, watch television, talk on the telephone, and eat. There was no stove in the cubicle, so meals were delivered every day.
Kirby took advantage of the balcony by stepping out onto it every few hours. There were always people to greet her. Advertisements in newspaper and on radio invited residents to see what they referred to as “Alice in the Looking Glass House’”. Spectators were also encouraged to guess how long Kirby would be able to live on the chair. Her toddler son was a frequent visitor. He was lifted up to see Kirby via placement in a dumb waiter.
Kirby lived in the chair for 42 days. She did not stay longer because she had become wary of her life there. She earned $1,500 for her stay.
Over time, the stories of the Curtis Brothers’ ploys seemed to be folklore. Not true – the stories about why the chair was built and Alice in the Looking Glass House were true. In fact, Kirby was located a few years ago and recounted her story.