On April 25, 2003 I became the proud owner
of the Berninghaus Barber Chair pictured below.

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Forty three years ago, Fate took the hand of a small eight year old boy and started him on an incredible and amazing journey through time. The George Pal film The Time Machine provided the spark of imagination which kindled a passion within him. Today that passion still burns as brightly as ever.

It's been a long journey for that small eight year old boy of so many years ago who dreamed of one day building a full size replica of his favorite movie prop, the Time Machine. Much had to be learned, skills needed to be aquired and talents developed.

In 1998 the opportunity arose to build a replica of the machine for the Travels Through Time Museum in Sacramento. The most difficult aspect of the construction as many are aware of, is the chair. The original chair used was an 1899 -1901 barber chair manufatured by the Eugene Berninghaus company in Cincinnatti Ohio. Due to budget and time constraints the chair could not be built to match the exacting detail of the original.

I had all but given up hope that a real Berninghaus chair would ever become available and I had resigned myself that I would have to build a replica of the chair myself, perhaps having the carvings done by a professional wood carver.

On April 21, 2003 Fate stepped in once more and started a series of events which would bring the ultimate goal of building an accurate reproduction of the George Pal Time Machine even closer.

I received an e-mail from a friend informing me that the two Berninghaus chairs which had been used in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator were up for sale on ebay. These two chairs were virtually identical to the one used in the Time Machine. I had always made it a practice to search ebay every other day at the very least and had missed these as the description was for chairs, plural and not chair singular. The auction was to end on the next day! To read more about the two chairs and the auction click here. During a conversation with the seller I discovered that the reserve price was set at $27,500 which was entirely out of my price range. We continued to talk about the chairs and that someone had mentioned one of these models had been used in The Time Machine. I told him that that was my interest as well and hoped one day to get one or else I would have to build one from scratch. He was amazed that that was an option.

The next day the auction ended with no winning bidder. I thought I should call the seller back and try to arrange to at least see the chairs and perhaps take photos and some measurements.

When I returned home on Wednesday from working on my father's house I found I had received an e-mail from the seller. It was addressed to someone other than me and had attached several photos of yet another Berninghaus barber chair. The message said to contact him asap regarding the chair. I deduced one of two things had happened, either he got my name mixed up with someone else or the message was delivered to me by accident. I returned the e-mail at once and asked what was the asking price. The seller called me and told me it was sent in error, it was meant to go to someone else and the chair was sold. I asked the price and told him if the other buyer backed out I would buy it.

That night the buyer called me, his interest was the same as mine, to use it in a replica of the Time Machine. We talked at length and at the end of the conversation he wasn't entirely sure if he would buy the chair or allow me to buy it, he would sleep on it and make his final decision the next day. Needless to say it was a long night for both of us. The next day I was again at my father's house and upon returning home there was an e-mail message from the seller to call him after I spoke with the other buyer.

I called him and he told me he had decided not to buy it and it was mine for the taking. I called the seller and made arrangements to pay for the chair and have it delivered. Friday afternoon I went with cashiers check in hand to pay for the chair. I met the seller and inspected the chair and subsequently handed over the payment. He called a fellow he knew who could arrange the delivery and at 6:30 that evening two fellows rolled the chair into our living room where it currently resides. What a week!

I'd like to thank my wife for her enduring spirit and undying support, and also KC, Patrick and Rob for their parts in this chapter. I thank God I don't have a sensible wife!

 

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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