How to Identify a Rocking Chair Style

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American furniture makers popularized the rocking chair during Colonial times. The first rockers were stationary Windsor chairs with the legs shortened and slotted onto rockers, according to Joe Carter in This Old House Magazine.


Styles proliferated from the 18th to the 21st century, from traditional to free-form designs.


Originally made of wood, contemporary rocking chairs can be constructed from chrome, molded plastic, laminated cardboard or aluminum and fiberglass. Styles range from high back traditional wooden models to floating molds.

Back Styles

  • Identify hooped-back rockers as the Windsor style ca. 1740. Windsor chairs had a birdcage back, where horizontal wood pieces penetrate the vertical spindles.

  • Look at rocking chairs with rectangular double painted crest rails as Salem Rockers. Spindles attach the seat to the lower rail. The second rail acts as a large head rest.

  • File rocking chairs woven in exotic and elaborate shapes into the Wicker or Rattan Style popularized in the 1850s. They feature enlarged rounded backs and intricate skirting.

Leg Styles

  • Connect splayed legs and arms on a rocker with the Windsor chair style of 1770. They have spindle legs attached to the runners at an angle and pegged directly into the seat.

  • Label a six-legged rocker as the 1740s Gungstol style, created in Sweden. The extra legs were attached to a carved, elongated seat that curved part way up the back.

  • Put rough-hewn rockers with legs made of sticks in the Adirondack style. The arms and frame are sticks, the back twigs and the seat woven leather or wood.

Seat

  • Find a rocker with a seat woven from leather, wool or cane with a tall, curving ladder back, sculpted arms and no ornamentation and label it an 1820s Shaker style.

  • Sit on a rocker with a wooden seat curving down in front and up at the rear with armrests to match the curves and classify it an 1840s Boston Rocker.

  • See a rocking chair with a one-piece fabric back and seat supported on wooden slats in a one-piece, S-curved wrought iron frame and identify it as an 1850s Iron Rocker.

Rockers

  • Label a high-backed rocker with extra long, ski jump-shaped runners as a contemporary Maloof Style made by California chair maker Sam Maloof and used by President Ronald Reagan.

  • Classify a rocker with thick runners, frame, arms, seat and back as in the Morris Style.

  • Look for a spring under the seat in a rocker without rockers and you have a Platform Rocker designed to prevent runners from cutting grooves in carpets.

Arms

  • Identify rocking chairs without arms as Sewing or Nursing Rockers, which had smaller frames to fit female users.

  • Classify rockers with rounded wooden arms and frames in the 1860s Bentwood Rocker Style. The chair arms can be of one piece with the frame and are steam molded into grand curves.

  • Put molded plastic rockers of a nontraditional shape in the Modern style. These may have no separation between the arms, back, seat, legs and runners.

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References

  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images rocking chair image by angelo.gi from Fotolia.com
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