If you love the look of antiques but feel it wouldn't be realistic to furnish your entire home with them, consider purchasing a few accent pieces to place on display in less-trafficked parts of your house. Antique rocking chairs make excellent statement pieces, and many of them, particularly those that were fashioned from hardwood, are still sturdy enough to be used for their original purpose -- relaxing and rocking in comfort. Following are five types of rocking chairs that were popular in American homes during the 1800s through the early part of the 20th century.
As its name implies, Bentwood rockers are made from wood that has been steamed until pliable enough to bend into swirling patterns. First originating in Austria as the creation of craftsman Michael Thonet, Bentwood rockers became popular additions to European parlors in the 1800s and gradually gained popularity in American homes during the 19th and 20th centuries as factory production made them an affordable option. The seats and backs of Bentwood rockers were made from woven cane, and the legs and arms were made from beechwood.
Classic ladderback rockers were a staple of many homes in rural America during the 1800s. Most country people of this era made their own furniture, and the ladderback style had clean, simple lines that even novice carpenters could quickly master. Because these chairs were traditionally crafted using durable, long-lasting hardwood, many that were made during the 1800s are still in existence today.
Ladies' Sewing Rocker
These were simple, small chairs designed for use in household sewing rooms. They were armless in order to allow the arms to have freedom of movement so that women could easily sew. Sometimes referred to as nursing chairs, they were also used by breastfeeding mothers because the lack of arms provided more flexibility. These chairs were smaller than full-sized rockers and were often made of pine.
Mission Style Rocker
Another American classic, mission style rockers were similar in design to ladderback chairs except that the backboards were vertical rather than horizontal. They were also made by home carpenters in the 1800s and were frequently fashioned from oak. These rockers were often places on screened porches where the family would relax after the evening meal on hot summer nights.
Pressed-back rockers became popular among American homeowners during the revival of colonial style from the 1870s through the first couple of decades of the 20th century. Easily identifiable by the raised designs on the backboards, these chairs also feature carved legs and arm rests. Most of them were made from oak or maple and were made by craftsmen rather than by home carpenters.
Victorian Wicker Rocker
Wicker rockers were wildly popular in Victorian times because the material's great adaptability allowed it to be twisted and turned into the ornate designs that those living in the Victorian era loved. Available in all colors, they were sometimes so ornate that they were used as parlor decorations rather than for actual seating. Remaining wicker rockers from those years are generally too fragile for everyday use, although they do make excellent accent pieces for those whose homes don't include curious, active children or pets. These fragile items require more protection that their counterparts crafted from wood.
Many of these styles are still used by modern manufacturers, and most of the time, these items make no pretensions of being authentic antique rockers. Occasionally, however, antiques enthusiasts may run across a seller trying to pass something off as authentic when it isn't, which is why you should always consult with a professional antique appraiser if you have any doubts concerning authenticity.
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