The little-known Bostonian who almost revolutionized theater seating

duprey - FEATURE

In 1924 Louis J. Duprey, who left little other trace of his existence, nearly revolutionized the way people enter and leave theaters. Duprey patented his invention that “permits any patron of the theatre to enter or leave his place without at all disturbing other patrons”.

The method is not simple, but it is exciting. You, the patron, entered vertically, though a trap door, already ensconced on a chair. When you want to leave, a discreet twist of a knob activates the machinery in reverse, causing the chair, and you, to quietly sink back down, and out.

duprey figure 2

The images you see here are from US patent #1517774.

In 1958, Elmore Hagadorn of Solvay, New York, obtained a patent (US patent #2836127) for a twist on the Duprey system. Hagedorn’s system, claiming to be safer than Duprey’s, would have you, the patron, enter the theater the old fashioned way. You would then walk down the aisle, and sit in an aisle seat. That seat would then automatically trundle the seated you, horizontally, from the aisle to your designated performance-viewing location. Whenever you want to leave, the machinery would unobtrusively trundle you, in your seat, back to the aisle.

Unobtrusively” is the main point. Under both the Duprey vertical system and the Hagadorn horizontal system, your fellow theatergoers would barely notice your coming and going. That’s what both patents stress.

duprey figure 1

So far as I know, neither Duprey’s scheme nor Hagedorn’s was ever put into use.

duprey patent TITLE

Louis J. Duprey’s patent document is the only record I found of the man. It says only that he was “of Dorchester, Massachusetts” in 1923, the year he filed the patent application. I would be grateful if anyone can supply further information about Duprey — what else he accomplished, and of course how near he came to having some theater install his uplifting system.

Marc Abrahams is the editor of the Annals of Improbable Research magazine and organizer of the Ig Nobel Prizes.
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