Cane-Backed Wheelchair, About 1900


This wheelchair was used in the Fifth Avenue United Methodist Church in Wilmington. It is much taller than today's wheelchairs standing about four feet tall. It looks much like a regular dining room chair with a decorative back and arms. The wheelchair has two large wheels in front with iron spokes and rubber tires. There are wooden rims on the tires for self propulsion. Two smaller wheels in the back swivel and allow the chair to turn. The right armrest has a mechanism for reclining. The back and seat of the chair are made of woven cane. The footrests look like two legs and are also made of woven cane. These adjust to allow the user to prop the legs straight.


This wheelchair is probably from around 1900. This wheelchair, while much bulkier and heavier than wheelchairs used today, was an advancement in wheelchair development. The cane backing made the chair lighter. The reclining feature and movable legs provided more comfort, while the swivel wheels allowed maneuverability. Wheelchairs were used to help people who could not move around easily on their own. Many churches have wheelchairs to assist elderly, injured, or ill churchgoers.

Fifth Avenue Methodist Church was founded in 1847, and the current sanctuary was built in 1889. Architect B.D. Price of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, designed the church. Mr. Price's designs for Methodist Churches were popular throughout the United States at this time.

Cane Backed Wheelchair

CFM 1993.016.0001

Gift of Rev. Samuel