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By Drew Truitt
Associate Editor 

On . . . or off Your Rocker


Last updated 11/14/2019 at 8:39am

To rock or not to rock. That is the question.

I wish I could say I vividly recall my grandma knitting in her rocking chair as a prominent childhood memory.

But I can't. Neither of my grandmothers knitted, and neither one rocked.

Or did they? Chances are pretty good they actually did rock because for hundreds of years rocking chairs were considered "the most popular furniture," according to

Nearly everyone had one; nursery, glider, spring, swivel, reclining, porch or patio are all various types of rockers that would be designed for a particular place or space.

If you lived in or visited an old house you probably had an opportunity to rock.

Documented proof of the first rocker was in 1766. Rocking chair introduction is generally recognized as having been ordinary chairs with attached rockers in the early 1700s mostly for use in gardens.

Although Benjamin Franklin has been credited with its invention Ben was a mere child at the time so this notion has been nullified.

Cradles, on the other hand, date back to ancient times with one example unearthed in Herculaneum, a Roman city laid to ruins by lava flows from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Rocking horses are an enigma. It has been said they can be traced back to medieval times, which paints a broad swath since the Middle Ages covers a whole thousand years, beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century and extending to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

But it's not difficult to imagine an industrious father carving a toy with a curved rocker bottom and a piece of wood made or painted to resemble a horse in any era.

Yet verifiable proof of its existence didn't occur until around 1600. In the late 1800s the rocking horse became mass produced as a toy or amusement.

Drew Truitt

An old rounded seat oak and veneer rocking chair seen better days I posted on Marketplace for $25 is in need to minor restoration, or just make it shabby chic with a clever paint job and add a cushion for comfort and to hide the imperfections.

The rocking chair was arguably popularized by German-Austrian Michael Thonet with his 1860 bentwood rocker. His bending technique through use of steam to heat and shape the wood led to his furniture industrialization in the mid-19th century.

According to Wikipedia, "Thonet production peaked in 1912: two million different products were manufactured and sold worldwide."

And two presidents were linked to the rocking chair.

John F. Kennedy virtually guaranteed the P & P Chair Co. (founded 1926) long-term success with their JFK Rocking Chair.

President Kennedy had one in almost every room because he suffered from back pain and they provided at least some modicum of comfort and relief.

Abraham Lincoln was sitting in a rocker at Ford's Theatre while attending a play when actor John Wilkes Booth shot the president from behind without warning.

Whether to rock or not to rock is the question.

The answer, unequivocally, is to rock on.

Besides the obvious remedies associated with rhythmic motion the rocker has also, on many an occasion, provided a sure cure for insomnia.


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