A History of Vintage, Old and Antique Rocking Chairs

Americans are very proud that they Invented one of the most popular forms of furniture - the rocking chair. It is no longer possible to ascertain who actually created the first rocking chair but the story that Benjamin Franklin was the first in 1787 to have had curved rails set under a chair is not true. An earlier bill from the furniture maker William Savery of 1774 bears the inscription: 'to putting rockers on a chair' for which the charge was one shilling and sixpence. 

The rocking chair was brought back into fashion in the 1960s by President Kennedy but furniture makers had started putting curved rockers under existing chairs from the beginning of the eighteenth century to make them more comfortable. 

These early rocking chairs were known as 'carpet cutters' because of the damage done to carpets by repeated rocking in the same place. Rocking chairs existed in whatever style was in vogue such as Windsor, slat back, and banister. Rockers were fixed by notching the legs of the chair which were then fixed to the rockers. This was used for attaching rockers to chairs that had not been made as rockers.

Makes Wonder Don't It?

Soon chairs were being expressly designed and made as rocking chairs. These often had heavier duty legs which were jointed to the rockers themselves. These chairs were also often broader with some being up to three times as wide as the early 'carpet cutters'. Rocking chairs are usually not upholstered and the seats are normally of wood or rush. In order to sit on a soft seat cushions were added.

The Boston rocker is a popular form of rocking chair with the earliest known example of this Windsor style chair being made in 1830, probably in Connecticut. The rolled seat is characteristic of these chairs, with the front of the seat curved inwards and the rear curving upwards. Collectors and art historians are particularly interested in the decorations on the chair back and armrests that Were often done in gold paint.

Soon the grandmother knitting in in her rocking chair or spinning yarn became a familiar sight throughout the world. The best way to determine if a rocking chair is genuine or converted is to compare the history of paint on the chair with that of the rockers. If the rockers have fewer layers of paint than the chair then it is almost certain the rockers had been added later.