Identifying Old Rocking Chairs

Identifying Old Rocking Chairs

Identifying antique or vintage rocking chairs is not difficult if you take a little time to research the unique characteristics of various styles and eras. Look carefully at the following images. They represent several different decades of rocking chairs.

This small chair is a ladies sewing rocker, sometimes called a nursing rocker. The chair is always bigger than child-size but smaller than a full size rocker would be. The lack of arms allowed the lady of the house to easily nurse and infant or sew a shirt while she rocked. These are utilitarian chairs, usually simple and made from pine.

Pressed Back

The pressed back rocking chair was part of the colonial revival style that lasted from about 1870 to 1920. You can easily identify this style by the raised design of the wood on the back. Beware of reproductions; this style became popular again in the 1980s.

Antique Wicker Rocking Chair

It is hard to imagine a proper Victorian veranda with out a wicker rocker. Wicker had been used since Roman times to create furniture and was popular as early as the middle of the 1700s in the United States. Victorians perfected the design, and loved wicker because it allowed them to have all the scroll work and details that their hearts desired.


A big help in identifying old rocking chairs is to look at the lines and the way the back is designed. This neoclassical, upholstered rocker is part of the Colonial Revival period from 1870-1920. It has some detail in the back as well as the spools on the legs. You can see some of the simple Arts and Crafts era influence in how the back of the chair is made.

Classic Ladderback Rocker

The classic ladderback rocker is what many people think of when they think of a country rocking chair. It is easy to recognize with its tall back and slat design.

Bentwood Rocker

The Bentwood Rocker was introduced in 1856 in Austria by Michael Thonet. There were many variations on this chair design, but it was always made with steamed wood bent into a variety of swirls.

Jenny Lind Children's Rocker

Jenny Lind furniture was named after a popular Swedish opera singer in the late 1850s. It is easy to identify by the turned spindles. It is often used for baby and children's furniture.

Mission Style Rocking Chair

The Mission style is simple, squared off , and squat. It has the feel of solidity and a beauty all its own.

Eames Era Rocking Chair

Finally, the Eames Era (1950s-1960s) brought a contemporary look to all furniture, including rocking chairs. The chairs were designed to comfortably support the body. They are usually made of molded plastic and have very modern looking forms.

It does take some skill to identify these old rocking chairs but by looking at as many as possible, asking questions, and learning about the designs you can be an expert in no time.

Was this page useful?
Identifying Old Rocking Chairs