The Early American Rocking Chair

    The rocking chair is a purely America idea. We have had them since 1174, whereas the earliest known foreign rockerwas made in 1840. The word "rocker" did not mean a chair until a later time, but it did refer to those curved pieces of wood beneath cradles. Originally rocking chairs were called rocker chairs.

    The step from cradle to rociing chair is lost in the complexity of American inventiveness that flourished between 1750 and 1775. There was once a combination cradle and settee known as a "rockee" or rocking "settee" that might have been the missing link between the two pieces of furniture.

    Almost all of the early sraight-backed rocking chairs are converted chairs with rockers added. Benjamin Franklin had experimented with an iron rocker to fasten to any chair. He also had a most remarkable "chair with rockers, and a large fan placed over it with which he fanned himself, keeping flies off, etc., while he sat reading, with only a small motion of his foot."

    President John F. Kennedy, who had a chronic back problem all of his adult life, openly used a rocking chair during his tenure in office, and did much to bring the rocking chair back into fashion for the younger set. Rocking chairs have always popular for older adults.

    Excerpted by Maury Tosi
    From Eric Sloane's booklet American Yesterday (1956)