Berninghaus Barber Chair

Please note:

As this is one of the very few webpages which cover barber chairs I get a lot of inqueries from people asking about the history of all makes and models. Mostly folks want to know the value of a chair they have. I am not an expert on barber chairs and as such cannot give you a value on your chair. If you have a chair as pictured below and are interested in selling it I may be able to connect you with an interested party.

Also, I do not sell barber chairs, parts or supplies for them. My sole interest in the Berninghaus chair is that one was used in the Time Machine prop built by MGM. I do own one of the chairs pictured on this page and will gladly answer any questions in regard to it.

Don Coleman

Page from Barbershop Supplies Co. catalog.
The handrests pictured are different than those on the 'Time Machine' chair.
(Copy provided by Harvey Mayo) (click on ad to see larger image)

1910 era order blank
from the
Eugene Berninghaus Co.
Eugene Berninghaus Company (active ca.1872-1938)
Cincinnati, Ohio

Eugene Berninghaus was born in Germany July 12, 1845. He along with his parents came to the new world in 1849. A few years were passed in New York before the family relocated to Cincinnati in 1856. The father, Richard, established himself in the perfumery business, which he had learned in his native land of Germany.

About the time Eugene Berninghaus married Miss. Mary Dolle, of Indiana the entire Berninghaus family moved to Chicago. Following the great Chicago fire of 1871, which caused the loss of all his household effects, he along with his wife and a three-month old baby, returned to Cincinnati in 1872. Soon after arriving Mr. Berninghaus began the manufacture of perfumes and barber's lotions in a small room at the corner of Richmond and Freemont streets, but in 1875 removed to Western Avenue where he began to manufacture barber's chairs and barber's furniture. He was the first in the United States to establish such a business and it continued to prosper throughout his lifetime.
—Witherells Arts-Antiques

Photographs of a restored Berninghaus Barber Chair. In this condition they sell for around $6000.00 today.
The two additional chairs owned by M.G.M. were sold at their 1970 auction for $1500.00 each.
This chair has the same handrests as the 'Time Machine' chair.
Click on thumbnail for larger picture


Photo of the Time Machine at the 1970 M.G.M. auction showing the chair.

Charles Chaplin used two of this style chair in the filming of "The Great Dictator"
Those two chairs surfaced on Ebay
in April of 2003

Click Here for more details

Photos and details on the Berninghaus chair I was able to purchase.

Click Here for more details

The time has come to expose the truth about the chair used in the George Pal version of the Time Machine. A lot of time and effort has gone into uncovering the information on this page.

The saga began in 1970. M.G.M. announced they were having an auction and selling nearly everything. M.G.M. had produced many of my favorite films and TV series and being born in Culver City and living only 3 blocks from the studio I was really interested in going. You needed an auction catalog to be admitted, so I scraped together the $10.00 needed and mailed it off. I received their 'catalog' a box containing 5 printed catalogs. It was amazing, everything from hand props, costumes, weapons, and antiques.

I scoured their contents looking for anything from my favorite shows. Then there it was, The Time Machine, Wow!, it was a dream come true. Not that I would be able to buy it, I was only 18 and just out of high school, but just to see it. Then looking further I found listed another Time Machine, could it be the miniature? I could hardly wait for the first day of previewing the auction items.

First day I was at the studio with catalog in hand. First stop lot 1 stage 7, the Time Machine. I found the stage and entered, those of you in the film industry can probably anticipate what I saw, there was the Time Machine in the center of the stage looking quite decrepit. The base was scuffed, the rails dull, the console had been replaced, the upholstery was faded and over all the machine looked as if it had been unkempt for centuries. Nothing at all reminiscent of its film presence. So often when you see things in person that were on film they never look as good. The lighting and camera angles can improve their look a great deal. To be honest, at the time I wasn't even sure it was the same machine. I recall being rather disappointed at seeing it.

Well.. now it was of to lot 3 the Kismet locker to see what the other Time Machine was. Lot three was at the corner of Overland and Jefferson, now Raintree condominiums. I arrived and entered the backlot and preceded to the Kismet locker. The Kismet locker was essentially one of many storage sheds (they can be seen in various Outer Limits episodes) to the left inside the gate. I entered the locker and looked around, no Time Machine in here only some furniture and the two headed tortoise from the Addams family (cool). Later I discovered the mystery behind the second Time Machine. The machine was originally stored in the Kismet locker and was inventoried for the auction, then the Morlocks moved it to stage 7 for higher visibility (sorry, I had to say it) and it was inventoried the second time. Later, when the contents of the Kismet locker were being sold, I went just to be sure.

Now that I had satisfied myself regarding the whereabouts of the Time Machine I browsed through the rest of the Hollywood memories to be auctioned. As I entered stage 27 the first thing I saw were two Berninghaus barber chairs identical to the one in the Time Machine, I now knew the chair was an actual barber chair. I didn't look for the manufacturers name, why bother, why would I need it. I only planned to build a model of the machine and now I knew what the chair looked like.

The following days found me in the presence of the Time Machine making sketches of details and counting rivets. One day I borrowed my father's Argus C3 camera and took some B&W photos of the machine, another day I shot a few color photos with my instamatic (I'm dating myself here).

Below you will find a photo of the 1/6 th scale chair I made that summer for my model. Each day I would go to the studio and take down details then come home and work on the chair. I have yet to finish this model. I'm sure this will lead to another set of pages on this site in time.

The Time Machine was auctioned, I recall for around $4000.00 to someone who was going to take it on tour across the US. The machine slipped into obscurity for the next two years.

Prior to the Time Machine being found, Harvey Mayo had thought that the chair was indeed an actual barber chair and attempted to track down the maker, but results were not forthcoming and the search was postponed.

In 1972 the Time Machine was found in an antique store in Orange County by Tom Scherman. Tom called Harvey Mayo knowing his great attraction for the machine and asked if he was interested in buying it. Harvey's main interest was in the miniature and he also had no place to put it and so declined the offer. Tom then called Bob Burns and Bob was able to acquire the machine. The chair had been removed and sold separately. Bob brought in a few of his friends to restore the machine. Harvey was brought in to build a replacement for the console which was also missing. A replacement chair was built by Tom Scherman and others. The Time Machine made its debut at the, then, annual Bob Burns Halloween Extravaganza. The machine has since been seen in various venues and currently rests in the 'Bob Burns Museum' .


Steve Stockbarger and I met Chris Perrotta at a memorabilia and model show in Pasadena, Chris had entered a model of the Time Machine he had built. When he discovered that Steve and I probably knew more about the original machine and movie than just about anyone he became quite interested in us. Through Chris I met John Rosa who was also a fan of the machine. John is responsible for researching and replicating the rosette which I have used on the machine I made. That's another story in itself. John also was able to track down and purchase one of the Berninghaus chairs (photos of it below); however, he kept it a secret, to this day we don't know why. John passed away from a brain tumor within 6 months after buying the chair. He did let Chris in on his secret and this is how Chris was able to do such a wonderful job in his detailed drawings of the chair

Around this same time, Harvey again began searching for the elusive chair. His persistence paid off when he found a dealer who had just sold one of the chairs and was able to at least provide some photos of it, these are the photos below. The dealer told Harvey the name of the buyer, John Rosa in California. It is indeed a small world.

The chair used is in reality an 1899 Berninghaus barber chair 'Hercules' # 58 model. Above is a copy of an ad for the chair from Steinen, Kirchner Co. of Los Angeles Barbers' Supplies catalog. The chair was available from Eugene Berninghaus in Cincinnati Ohio and was available in several different woods and upholstery. It appears also that the hand rests had two different styles, possibly different years of production.


The Berninghaus chair was modified to be used in the Time Machine.

  • First of all, the pedestal was removed and four legs were manufactured and installed.
  • The original headrest was discarded and replaced by the original foot rest.
  • The section in the front of the chair which the footrest is attached to was removed and replaced with a wooden part.
  • The attachments at the rear of the arm rests where moved from the chair back and mounted onto the chair sides.
  • The arm which was raised by Rod Taylor so he could climb into the machine more easily was accomplished by removing the screw which held the arm rest onto the swan 's head support.
  • The bottom of the front turned corners were cut off in order for the chair to clear the side rails.

Detail drawing of modified Berninghaus barber chair by Chris Perrotta

click to see enlarged view


Full Size reproductions

Replacement Chair now in Original Machine
Don Coleman
John Rigg
Chair in Clyde Lucas' two seat machine
Carl Piermarini


1/10 th scale chair in
Lunar Models kit
(Ed Turner 2000)
1/12th scale chair for miniature
of Lucas' two seater
(Don Coleman 1992)
1/6th scale chair built by Don Coleman in 1970 at age 18

Chair from the Masterpiece Models Time Machine kit 1/6th scale


Photos of a 'Lang' barber chair.
(click on photos to see larger view.)

This chair was for sale on E-bay in 1999.
It was stated that the chair was from the 1870's which predates the Berninghaus design, if so, I would say that Berninghaus either took over this company or hired their wood carvers as the designs are exact.
The hardware is brass on this chair, most chairs had their hardware nickel plated. It is possible that when this chair was restored the restorer preferred the polished brass to go with the oak.

Note that the feet are identical to the hand rests on the Berninghaus chair.



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The Time Machine Project 1998 Don Coleman
Web Site 1999 Don Coleman
Web site created by Don Coleman
3727 W. Magnolia Blvd. #240
Burbank, CA 91505