Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Rocking Chair


It is rare to see a classic New England home that does not have at least one rocking chair. They are in so many ways perfect - easy to anthropomorphize as low-key, friendly, and selfless.

Rocking chairs are almost always the first choice for guests.  This includes the old and the young, each of whom seem to appreciate the ability to both move and feel some weightlessness for different reasons. Rocking chairs might be in the same strata as good kitchen smells and visible toys for children in making a house inviting.



For Colder Weather

Although their origins are somewhat in question, (the Benjamin Franklin myth has been pretty thoroughly debunked), some think the first rocker was made in the northeast while others say it was the Windsor Rocker, made in England in 1725.  Wicker showed up shortly after that (in the eighteenth century), the Adirondack Rocker in the early 1800s, and the Boston Rocker around 1840.  Rocking chairs have historically been reserved for the elders and heads of a family.

 The Presidential Rocker (often called the Kennedy Rocker) may be the most comfortable rocking chair made.


L.L. Bean still sells it in their Home Store in Freeport – still made in the US - at what is a reasonable $299.99. 



A true Carolina Rocker has this stamp underneath the arm.




Then there are the requisite, sometimes impractical, school chairs  (Still made in Gardner, Massachusetts  today at Standard Chair).
Like so many perfect things, rocking chairs can easily be forgotten. But their low-key contribution to the quality of one's life is always appreciated.

16 comments:

Beth said...

One of my very favorite posts-----
Thank you

Marie said...

I have pictures that I treasure of my grand-parents seated in rockers enjoying the day.
There is nothing better than furniture that has been passed down through the generations-no matter how humble in design.

Sadie said...

What a wonderful post- P&P Chair Company, who originally manufactured the Kennedy Rocker, was based in my hometown. Everyone in my family owns at least one Kennedy Rocker, and when I was in elementary school, P&P allowed me to tour their factory for a school report. It was nice to see my favorite chair on your blog!

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

I dated a girl in college whose parents thought that I would be the one she eventually married. They were from solid Vermont Yankee stock, and her father affectionately gave me (among other things) a rocking chair from their house. As I loaded it into my car at the end of the summer to take back to my off-campus apartment, he casually told me that it had "rocked many generations of [their family name]". I was honored, but clearly undeserving of it. Years later, I gave it to my younger sister, who was the first to have children in our immediate family, and it rocked all of hers regularly. Last year, the college girlfriend called me out of the blue, and told me that she was married and in her ninth month of pregnancy. I reminded her that I had her family rocking chair. My sister delivered it to me and the old girlfriend drove up a week later and received it. I never felt right about having that chair, but it was a gift to me from a man who thought I would be part of his family one day, so I hung on to it.
Now, it is where it should be, rocking a new generation of the rightful heir.

Grace said...

Such a classic piece! I love it. :)

Natalie said...

Out of idle curiosity, why do you try to veer away from oak furniture for the most part? Where does your preference lie?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your thoughtful reply (which was about barbour quilted jacket). I just want to say thanks for your kindness.

Anonymous said...

I have an old Hitchcock rocker that belonged I believe to my grandmother. I say "I believe" because there were two Hitchcock rockers in the family from two different sources. I'm not exactly sure which one I have, and the other rocker is nowhere to be found.

WRJ said...

Having a new baby in my extended family has made the utility of rocking chairs unambiguously clear!

I'm also curious about your feelings with regard to oak. I loathe it, but for purely aesthetic reasons. I think it's a combination of grain and coloring. Is there some functional reason upon which I can also base my distaste?

Worthington said...

I adore that Presidential Rocker - it is lovely and looks so beautiful. Plus, I am always happy to support Made in America merchandise with that kind of quality!

Funny thing about your school chairs - in my family, all of ours in the South come standard with arm rests (UVA, W&L, Richmond, R-MC, H-SC, etc.). I wonder if the no-arms is a Northeast tradition?

Wonderful post!

Anonymous said...

Oak doesn't have to be hideous. We have an ornately carved 18th century chest we always assumed to be pine, but which an appraiser identified as oak. A lot of what people don't like about oak has to do with the cut and treatment of the wood. It doesn't have to look like an 80s dining set (as evidenced by Muffy's beautiful chair.) Quarter sawn oak, especially, is lovely. Much British and early American furniture is made from oak.

Rae said...

I have been wanting to buy a rocking chair for several months now, and you post finally convinced me to pull the trigger on a beautiful antique rocking chair. Thank you!

Chris from New Hampshire said...

This came up in conversation a few months ago and I was sure that L.L. Bean no longer carried these. Thanks for the information.

Heather said...

I am also curious why you dislike oak furniture. It would seem that you would enjoy traditional Arts and Crafts style, which was primarily made from quarter sawn oak, as it was focused on function. Please tell us what we are missing!

C said...

Thanks for a charming post. In addition, I adore the rug in your final photo -- the orangey center and the thick, dark, floral border are gorgeous. What a treasure!

Anonymous said...

I love rocking chairs. We have a lovely cherry rocker that belonged to my husband's great-grandfather. Still sturdy and in great shape, we recently had it reupholstered as it was unusable when it was pulled from his father's attic. Made in America, for sure, but don't know where, exactly. It now sits proudly in our home. --Holly in PA