Rocking Chairs – History and Development

We all know what a rocking chair is but how long have they been around and how have they changed over the years? This article takes a fleeting look at where it all began and how things have changed.

The Romans left many images of wooden rocking chairs so we know they definitely existed thousands of years ago. However, the first ones in England are not until the early 18th Century. There were probably earlier versions but their record has not survived. About the same time as the first recorded in the UK, America also started using them. The first recorded rocking chair in America is in the middle of the 18th century. They became very popular in the 18th century and many wicker designs were produced in addition as wooden types. These designs are nevertheless used today and many are much sought after.

It is a shared misconception that Benjamin Franklin invented the rocking chair although he did own one and it popularised their use. The American image of the front porch nevertheless persists.In the UK, back in the 1960’s every house had a one of some description. My grandparents had one and so did all of my friends. I don’t know why but rocking chairs were definitely the norm. I remember my Grandmother’s, which was a substantial wooden frame with a rocker, which sat on a base held together by springs. The seat and arms were upholstered. You don’t see these much these days but back then they were very popular. As children it was a big treat if you got to sit on it and it was often used to reward good behaviour.

These days there is probably more variety but less of them in use. Technology has provided different materials for design and so you now get them made in plastic, metal and all sorts of hybrids. You can see the many types of rocking chairs here.

You can get them for children, which are real rocking chairs but scaled down. These already come in upholstered varieties and can be quite expensive. You can get designer wooden ones, which are very expensive and shaped to the human body so well that you don’t already need a cushion. You can already get them that can charge your iPad as you rock.

Nursing chairs have become very popular too. These are popular amongst nursing mothers for use when soothing their babies. Often they work on the glider rule, which is a different mechanism to a rocker. It provides a similar effect but works by hanging the chair from the frame via a hinge. These are perhaps the most sought after rocking chairs at this time.

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