Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rock the Night Away

by Connie Cortright

This week an old member of our family was returned to us. A rocking chair, that has been in my husband's family since the early 1920s, was delivered to our house after a refinishing company restored it to it's original condition. This chair is very valuable to us, not only because it's been in the family for four generations, but also because it is so historically unique.

The chair is actually one of the earliest forms of a recliner called the Morris chair. (And to think I never even heard of a Morris chair until the refinishing company identified it as such.) Morris and Company started manufacturing these early recliners already in 1883, but I'm sure our chair isn't that old. It might have been made in the early 20s or maybe just after World War I.

In doing research about these chairs, I was surprised that I didn't find too many others made like this. This rocking chair does not rock on the usual rounded wood runners. Instead it sits on a platform and uses large springs attaching the chair to the base that allow the rocker to rock back and forth.

Morris chairs were more often standard chairs that had the ability to recline. These first recliners had a hinged back between two arms that allowed the chair to recline using a metal bar and different notches in which to place the bar.

With the bar in the highest position, the chair sits upright. But if the person wants to recline in the chair, the bar would be moved manually to a lower position, allowing the back of the chair to lean back farther.

These type of recliners were popular from the later 1800s until the 1930s. By that time La-Z-Boy Incorporated had been formed and had patented the recliner mechanism that has been used and updated until today.

There are lots of family memories that go along with this rocker. The best one is from my mother-in-law who told me that when her babies were sick, she'd recline the rocker and rock the night away with her sleeping baby in her arms, rocked asleep in this Morris chair. We didn't get the chair passed down to us until after my boys were out of the baby stage, so I don't have memories like this myself, but maybe one of my daughters-in-law will one day. Now the big question is which one of my four sons will inherit this family heirloom.

Do you have an item that is passed from one generation to the next in your house?

Information taken from Recliner History and Morris Chair.

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