The Rocking Chair
Americans have always been fearless. We are explorers and problem solvers. We are pioneers and artists. It takes a set of brass balls to get on a boat, look lady death in the eye and say "I'll fight till I die, so bring it on". We have always been willing to battle the odds for a better tomorrow. We leave the naysayers in our dust and we rise from the ashes over and over again.
The gritty traits that our forefathers possessed are etched into the psyches of the many generations that came after. We are never afraid to experiment and try something new. Experimentation is the key to discovering new and unique things. I always tell my students, "When you run experiments in your shop, you will gain a deep and intuitive understanding of a subject, that you cannot gain from the knowledge of others alone." It was this fearless experimentation led to the birth of the rocking chair.
Rock-a-Bye Baby, On The Tree Top
A rocking chair is another American invention that transcends culture. The rhythmic repetitive motion of the rocking chair creates feelings of nostalgia and warmth. The soothing rock of a well built rocking chair is comforting on a primal level. When a mother picks up her crying newborn, she gracefully rocks the baby in her arms to soothe the fussy child. A mother does not need to be told to do this, the rocking motion is instinctive. It is effective and it works. The rocking chair was built to nurture these primal instincts. Even when not used for rocking, the rocking chair has an added benefit of finding the sitter's center of gravity, creating a feeling of balance, harmony, and peacefulness.
The Health Benefits of Rocking Chairs
Since its inception, the rocking chair has been prescribed by doctors to help with various ailments, like back problems, arthritis, ADHD, to help"calm the nerves", and many other discomforts. The motion of a rocking chair is so effective, the treatment method is know as rocking chair therapy. Please click this link to read about the many studies done on the health benefits of rocking chairs. It is fascinating that the simple rocking motion can have so many positive benefits.
The University of Rochester conducted a study on rocking chairs that revealed patients suffering from severe forms of dementia, who used rocking chair therapy, had in increase in psychological well-being. The movement of the rocking chair caused a release of endorphins that elevated moods, resulting in a reduction in anxiety and depression. The study also reported a decreased need for anxiety and depression medication in the participants.
Accoring to physiotherapist Brad Beer, the rocking motion can tap into the parasympathetic nervous system. “This is the sedative side of the nervous system and therefore good for pain management. Think about an upset child or someone who suffers from autism – they have a natural inclination to rock themselves, which releases endorphins to relieve the stress.”
The Birth of the Rocking Chair
Many People think that the Rocking chair was invented by Benjamin Franklin, but historians believe this to be untrue. Although Franklin may have made various improvements to the chair, there are records of rocking chairs in North America in the early 18th century, while Franklin was still a child. I have seen various versions of rocking chairs in the experimental phase including an interesting looking chair with two heavy duty springs attached to the bottom of the rear legs.
Presidential Rocking Chairs
There are a several famous rocking chairs owned by presidents while in office. John F. Kennedy, plagued with severe and chronic back problems was prescribed a rocking chair by his doctor. The president purchased a rocker and it became known as The Kennedy Rocker. Finally feeling some form of relief, Kennedy believed that the rocking chair changed his life. He loved the rocking chair so much that he purchased several for The White House, Camp David, the Kennedy Estates and other often visited locations so that he did not have to be without his therapeutic aide. Kennedy also purchased rocking Chairs for his friends, family, and acquaintances as gifts.
President Carter also had a well known appreciation for rocking chairs. He commissioned an Appalachian style ladder back rocker to be made. Carter said that chair is one of his favorites. Abraham Lincoln was peacefully rocking in a rocking chair at the time of his assassination.
Teddy Roosevelt Is My Hero
I like Teddy Roosevelt so much that I decided to dedicate an entire section to him. Teddy Roosevelt is the Man. He Owned a pit bull, he had a sweet mustache. He wrestled just for the hell of it. He would fight guys for fun. One time he was going on to give a speech and someone shot him. Instead of going to the hospital like a little girl, he thought he should probably give his speech first, because his message was more important than his life...........That is a straight up bad ass right there.
But anyways..... Teddy was also a huge fan of rocking chairs. In fact he only sat in regular chairs as a formality. Teddy was so hardcore that even when he sat down to rest, he liked to feel that at least his chair was on the go.
In the photos to the right, is a Windsor rocking chair that was owned by Teddy while in office. A staff member stole the chair from the collection of the White House before taking records of property became a common practice. I am glad the Roosevelt chair is back in the White House. I must admit, If I had a chance to own Teddy's chair. I would totally steal it. So bully to you chair thief. Bully to you.
(Note: Teddy's chair even has an killer black and red paint job. This man bled awesomeness.)
A Rocking Chair Rock Star
The most famous chair maker of all time was famous for his sculpted rocking chair. The late great Sam Maloof from Alta Looma, California USA. Sam invented a whole new look to the all wood rocking chair. He rethought how a chair form should be and created a much more organic rocker. He bent and shaped the wood into a much more ergonomic fit, making a form that is more reminiscent of the human form. Although the rocking chairs of Sam Maloof are very different from my own, I draw much inspiration from this iconic American woodworker.
The Windsor Rocking Chair
It is believed by some historians that the first rocking chairs were standard Windsor chairs with the legs cut down and the bow shaped boards attached to the shortened legs. Although the American Windsor chair and the rocking chair "grew up" together in the early to mid 18th century, almost all early Windsor rockers were just regular chairs that were modified, with the rockers being added at a later date. Later on, purpose built Windsor rocker chairs were created, marrying together two different American inventions to make some kind of American super chair.
An American Icon
The rocking chair has become so famous and iconic, that it transcends all furniture styles and fashion. The rocking chair is a style of its own, completely separate from ordinary chairs. It is as American as apple pie, and it is here to stay. From my experience as a chair maker, I can tell you that people are naturally drawn to the rockers. Rocking chairs have some sort of mutant super power to seduce people into sitting in them. The rocking chair says, "come on in, take a load off, and stay for awhile. The lemonade is cold and the hot dogs are on the grill." Who can say no to that?