Abraham Lincoln Rocked Here
A little gross, perhaps - but this is the actual chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated. This upholstered rocking chair was in the box at Ford's Theater in Washington, but was since moved to the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, so not many people have seen it (as least, not as many as if it were in Washington). You can see the bloodstains from Lincoln's head wound even now. Ouch. The museum is the American history in the Henry Ford Museum at Greenfield Village, just southwest of Detroit. (For more information, go to Greenfield Village.)
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I've warned you before on my blog about buying one of these cheap $99 rocking chairs the big box retailers seem to love selling. I've told you stories about those everpresent Cracker Barrel Rocking Chairs, which look homey but aren't that comfortable and are not weatherproof, so they rot and break if your porch has lots of sun and rain, as most do. I've shared stories about the dreadful Lowe's Rocking Chairs, which are ramrod straight and not even comfortable, break right when you assemble them, and if you're lucky enough not to break it then, it will break on you later, perhaps while you're sitting in it.
But surely, you wonder, these big box companies wouldn't sell furniture if it was dangerous, would they? Actually, yes! You get what you pay for, and these $99 Chinese import rocking chairs are actually dangerous and hurt people when they sit in them, as happened when Walmart recalled 643,000 of their Walmart rocking chairs after 45 people were injured in various painful ways. That report from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission called the rockers "dangerous" due to "poor construction" and said "Consumers should immediately stop using these rocking chairs and return them to Wal-Mart for a full refund".
Here is what they said happened to people who bought these cheap rocking chairs (again quoting the US government report):
Wal-Mart has received 55 incident reports including 45 injuries. Those injuries include a cut in the leg requiring 16 stitches, a slight concussion, fractured ribs, wrist and cervical/lumbar sprains, upper back injuries, a pinched nerve, a shoulder joint tear, and one incident in which a pregnant woman began having contractions after the display chair in which she was sitting flipped over backwards. Many of the injuries occurred on display models in Wal-Mart stores.
OK, those really sound painful. It can feel good to think you're saving money, but please realize that you do often get what you pay for, and when it comes to furniture, buying something of good design and quality construction is really important...to your health!
It's Memorial Day and time to rock out! Saw this white rocking chair on a porch near the beach we were visiting, and, seeing a "for lease" sign, figured I would go up to the deck and take a beautiful picture! Of course, when I got close to the chair, I could see it's a cheap one - a bit rickety, put together by visible hardware (which is already degrading in the seabreeze and humidity), and already rotting in the joints as almost all rockers do. You have to get a rocker made of a weatherproof wood if you're going to leave a rocker outside! I didn't sit in this one - after all, I wasn't invited to the house anyway! - but I could tell what it would feel like - stiff and cheap - and didn't really want to. So basically what you have here is a rocker that makes for a beautiful, peaceful scene, but not what you would want to invest in if you are going to live with it. And hey, if you put your house on the market, you should consider high quality, not low quality porch furniture - otherwise discerning buyers will assume your house is cheap too!
My last post was a photo of the rocking chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot. Here is another rocking chair of Lincoln's, from happier days (though that's not saying much, is it).
This rocker is in the Union Pacific Railroad Museum in Council Bluffs, IA. When the Lincoln family left Springfield for Washington, they sold their house and many of their possessions. This rocking chair, used by Lincoln in his Springfield law office, was purchased at Lincoln's sale by a Springfield family.
Could use a cushion, I think.
_I've never thought these were particularly comfortable, but they are a lot of fun! They've been at Midway airport for many years now and I guess they must have had a contest at some time or else asked artists to do fun interpretations. They're getting a little creaky and some of the chairs had broken slats - but of course they must get a ton of use. Anyway, my verdict is . . . FUN!
Several people posted comments to my blog post about the low quality of Cracker Barrel rocking chairs. One lady said she wished that she had read my blog before buying the chairs, another said "I agree 100%!". A third reader asked if I can recommend another chair. Well, my favorite high quality rocking chair so far (I'm still looking as always!) is the Independence Rocker, which is the photograph I used in the masthead of this site (click on the name for a link to the chair itself on the Decor Americana site). I also appreciate the fact that they have volume pricing, so that if you buy two chairs, you pay a lower price per chair, and for four chairs, a lower price still. And yes, they cost more than Cracker Barrel! But I imagine that's because they are actually weatherproof and well built, which is my whole complaint about the Cracker Barrel ones, which just don't hold up, and frankly are not comfortable compared with many other rockers. I took some pictures of the incredibly flat seats and backs of Cracker Barrel rockers, and I will post those when I find them. Any rocker is comfortable, but the difference between "any rocking chair" and truly great one IS A PLEASURE!!
Eek! Here are some of those horrendous Lowe's made-in-China rocking chairs again! I once bought one of these and it broke TWICE just while I was assembling it. They use some mystery wood that's about as strong as balsa, and cover it up with black paint so you don't realize how low quality the wood is. It's very lightweight and that's a clue - and then so is the cheap design. Just check out the ramrod-straight backs of these chairs. Same with the seat - virtually no contouring at all. These Lowe's Rocking Chairs win the STAY AWAY award! And if you buy them, please put them somewhere that people don't actually go, because if anyone sits on them, they're going to fall right through them - if not this season, then next. Check out the reviews of this rocker at Lowe's.com - lots of breakage.
Airport Rocking Chair
These awesome rockers made a connection in Philadelphia go oh-so-smooth. Handsome and tall, they were heavy and tight and felt good to rock in. I would have liked a seat cushion but I can imagine they don't want to deal with spills in an airport - and actually, the seat was contoured and very comfortable - really didn't need a cushion. I believe this is where you can buy the airport rocking chair - see the photo in white - it's the same thing.
The rockers were painted white and looked great - I thought better than the random colors and styles you see at Midway in Chicago, or the creaky chairs in some other airports.
Why doesn't every airport have great rocking chairs to wait in?
The Kennedy Presidential Rocker
This has been called "the most famous chair in America" - the rocking chair brought by President John F. Kennedy to the White House and used there throughout his presidency (and Johnson's presidency too). Kennedy had a bad back resulting from war injuries and took the rocker everywhere he went. He had an identical chair in the Oval Office, in his residence at the White House, in the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Camp David, and Air Force One.
As you might imagine, a chair chosen by the President to his bad back is a very good quality chair - both durable and very comfortable. It has a nicely contoured seat and back, smooth rounded thick posts, and long runners that enable you to find a comfortable recline position. The back post is steam bent to give it additional angle, which is a very nice and fairly rare feature. I have sat in these rockers and they are very comfortable. I do not think they are comfortable as the Independence Rocker which I blogged about earlier, but for a rocker with a woven seat and back (which necessitates less contour for manufacturing reasons), it's pretty nice..
The chair is still available today. It's official name is the "Carolina Rocker" but it has always been nicknamed "The Kennedy Rocker" or the "Presidential Rocker" ever since JFK discovered them. Here is another excellent website with the story of the original Kennedy Rocker.
This is a color picture of the Kennedy Rocker in the oval office.
Straightbacked Rocker Vertigo
I just found this photo on the internet, but it demonstrates one of my pet peeves, which is rockers that have straight backs. These aren't the worst out there, but it gives me a case of "straight back vertigo"!
For more information about why an elbow-cut back post is more comfortable than a straight back, read my other posts on finding the perfect rocking chair.
Another example of a straight-backed rocker with very little contour in the seat or back. Still a nice place to take tea (or whiskey, since this photo is from Gatlinburg, Tennessee), but just not as comfortable as a nicer rocker.
Holden loves rocking chairs and loves writing about them almost as much.