Around 1850, the French introduced a reclining camp bed that could serve as a chair, a bed and a chaise longue. It was portable and featured padded arm rests and a steel frame. In the late 1800s, many designs were found for motion chairs that were made of wood with a padded seat and back. Designs from France and America included a document or book holder. The first reclining chair was reportedly owned by Napoleon III.

Knabush and Shoemaker, two American cousins, are credited with gaining a patent on a wooden recliner in 1928. The design was the same wooden bench recliner found in other designs. In 1930, Knabush and Shoemaker patented an upholstered model with a mechanical movement.

Daniel F. Caldemeyer is known as the father of the modern day recliner. His invention, as owner of National Furniture Mfg. Co based in Evansville, Indiana, initiated the widespread home usage of the chair that he called the rocket recliner. His name was based on the fact that he developed his chair based on the science of kinetics that he used while serving in the US Air Force.

His design was used by NASA for the seats in Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. His chairs were used in the ready room for these missions and can be seen in the movie Apollo 13.

The Secret Service even bought 50 of his chairs for President Lyndon Baines Johnson as a Christmas gift. A Life magazine photo of President Johnson, post gall bladder surgery, has the President lifting his shirt and showing his scar while sitting in one of these chairs. The Presidential Seal was embossed on these chairs with one currently in the Smithsonian and another at the LBJ museum. With over 300 patents, Caldemeyer added the foot lift rest, heated seating and massage features to this chair and had the patent for the first entertainment center.