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ON HIATUS - 2020

PHASE I (completed): Refine Robert F. Spears's original stool design for high-quality yet efficient small-scale production. Compile writings from Robert and compose the story of his stools through interviewing his grandchildren. Develop an online presence and begin selling the stools. 

History of the Design

Born in 1878 Robert F. Spears (pictured on the right in the above photo) was a conductor on the Great Northern Railroad for 52 years. His run was from Whitefish through Glacier Park to Havre MT and back again. Even forty years into his run he said, "Well, Friends, after serving all these years as a skipper on the varnish cars, Passenger Conductor -- collecting tickets and answering numerous questions, I still look forward to my trip with the same joy that newlyweds experience when starting out on their honeymoon". 

On his train there was a little metal stool that as a conductor he would use to help people get in and out of the train, it was a pressed sort of metal, small, easy to pick up. Robert F. Spears thought it would be handy for children to have their own stool to sit on or carry around and get up higher.


Based on this notion he designed his own step stool based on the porter’s stools. Starting in 1939 he gifted them to his 10 grandchildren starting with Bob Siem, Dick Siem, and Mary Beth Spears. He gave them to his grandchildren as soon as they "got old enough to use them and get into trouble" according to Mary Beth. 


His design utilized pine so the stools were lightweight, he made the opening so that a small child could easily get their hand in to lift it up, and coated it in a waterproof clear stain so they could handle getting messy. The grandchildren in Mary Beth’s generation often had their name or some other decal as an indicator on the stool so that they would know which stool was theirs. 

Now over 80 years and five generations later, his stool design has been revived by his great-great-great-grandaughter, JoHanna Flahiff. 



Archive : A Selection of Writings by Robert F. Spears

Process Gallery 

​PHASE II (upcoming):


Revive this project by working to produce three series of stools. The first will be to give to the new grandchildren in my generation in order to pass the tradition of the stool on. The two subsequent series will be available for sale. I would like to possibly try selling these at a craft show and/or a local toy store in Seattle, WA 

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