Boston Rocker: age and if worth repairing

Discussion in 'Furniture' started by Ladybranch, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

    I’m in the midst of cleaning out the attic. :grumpy: Most is junk for (tossing), some is antique (family heirlooms), and a little is still possibly usable stuff and such. Yesterday stumbled on a Boston rocker my family has had stored for at least 80 years in attics from New England, Mississippi, Canada, to back to Massachusetts, and now for the past 25 years in our attic here in the mid-south. Growing up I never thought much about it up in the spooky attic. Lo and behold I believe it is the real deal dating to possibly the 1830s/40s. I don’t know when, where or from whom my mother got it. It could have been a family piece or she bought it in the 1940s planning to refinish it with stenciling, etc., but never got around to it. Gee, so many questions I should have asked, and of course I should have listened more.

    I’d love to know: is it as old as I think, do y’all think the cracked seat can be fixed without replacing the seat, and if fixable is it worth it. At this moment, I certainly don’t plan on selling it unless it turns out not to be as old as I think, hope.

    Reasons I think it is one of the early Boston rockers:
    1. The seat curves up from the front to high in the back. From front to back is a plank that appears to be 1 piece of wood 1¼” thick. The front of seat scrolls/rolls down with an added piece of wood creating the roll. A large added chuck of wood was added to the back part of the seat to created the upward curve. That upward curve is a good 2" thick. The seat is low to the ground.
    2. The maple arms have the same curvature as the seat.
    3. The chair leans back quite low when at rest.
    4. High back has 6 long spindles and a wide slightly curved top rail with remnants of a fruit and floral stencil across it. The back curves out slightly. The spindles and side rails have no turnings but are tapered at the top ends.
    5. The spindles are not just attached to the seat but go all the way through the seat plank. Somewhere I read that later chairs had the spindles just barely embedded into the seat while early rockers had them deep into the seat.
    5. Most importantly, one and possibly 2 of the legs still have a pin, or very very narrow nail, with a hole for a second pin attaching it the rocker. The attachments of the other legs to the rockers have been reworked/repaired with either nails or a screw. Somewhere I read that the earliest Boston rockers legs were attached to the rockers with 2 pins or with 2 very narrow nails.

    The structural condition is fair to poor. The legs, back and one arm are in good condition. The other arm where it attaches to the back side rail has damage at the top of that area. Someone tried to repair the area with some sort of putty a long time ago. The **big** problem is the seat. The 1½” thick wood of the seat is cracked down through the middle from front to back. About where the 1½” thick wood meets/joins the 2” thick curved wood there is a partial crack from left to right across the chair that may be following the joining of the 2 thicknesses of the wood. The left to right crack does not go through to the bottom. The seat is still stable.

    Decorative-wise, the black paint on the seat, back, legs, spindles, and bottom looks like it was wiped on to reveal a rust, reddish, undercoat. I don't know if the reddish paint is milk red at this point. The paint is crackled and badly worn in areas. In the badly worn areas the grain of the wood is quite visible especially on the front and back of the top rail and on the seat. There are remnants of fruit & floral stenciling on the top/crest rail, remnants of yellow ocher or gold partial rings around the turnings of the front legs and front stretcher. The spindles and side rails have yellow/gold partial rings, but again no turnings. If there was a stencil on the front of the seat, it is long gone, worn off.

    Overall: Height to top rail: 39”, Width – widest at top rail: 24”, Depth from front of rockers to the top of the back when at rest: ~30”

    Seat: Height to top of seat: 16 ½”, height to the lowest part of the seat 13 ½”, width of front of seat: 18 ½”, widest point: 19 ½”, width at back: 14 ½”, depth from front to back: 19 ½”.

    Some of the following pics are misleading. I had to brighten most of them to see the details. The overall appearance of the chair is dark and faded with no real shine.

    --- Susan




    Following pics show the cracks in the seat from top & bottom views:



    On this pic not only you see the crack has gone through to the bottom of seat, but can also see that the arm/side spindles go all the way through the seat.


    Following pics of the arms. The composite pic shows: 1. hand hold of an arm, 2. the damaged the left arm, 3. right arm meeting the side rail and 4. screw hole attaching the right arm to the back side rail. The screw is partial covered with some sort of oldddd hardened fill.

    Mill Cove Treasures likes this.
  2. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

    I couldn't get all the pics in the above reply. Below are pics of a leg turning - only the front legs have turnings and pics of the legs attachments to the rockers.


    --- Susan


    bobsyouruncle likes this.
  3. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    I think you have done your homework and agree with your findings. Take a look at this rocker on RL. More importantly, look at the reference page they have provided from Wallace Nutting's Furniture Treasury.

    Your rocker appears to be grain painted and in untouched condition. If the seat is not falling apart, I would leave it. Gluing it back together would put new stresses on the attached front and back and could cause some new splits. If I was going to fix anything, it would be the poor repair to the arm. Otherwise, I would clean this gently and apply a coat of paste wax.
  4. marthahill

    marthahill Active Member

    Just do a search for early Boston rockers and you can see several variations !! I agree,, just leave it as-is !! Family heirloom !! They are not expensive chairs !!
  5. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

    Oh, Brad, thank you so much for your opinion. I'm delighted that I was right on dating this rocker. In a way I'm happier I got the dating fairly accurate than the chair is that old. This "old board" does enjoy once in a while being able to tell skeptical DH, "I told you so, I told you so." :happy: Now what do I do with it. I certainly don't want it back in the attic, our daugther doesn't particular want it, we already have wall to wall furniture. Thank you for the RL link to the Nutting's book. Gee, the paint on that RL Boston rocker is in pretty good condition to be original. Wish the paint on mine was nearly that good. I'm surprised that rocker has no stenciling. I'm also surprised at the low price they are asking for a presumably early Boston rocker in that good of condition. I've seen early (c1828-1840s) Boston rockers selling for $1,000 to $2,000 plus. Anyways I'm right in style for I photographed my chair in front of the garage doors like they did their rocker!

    Thank you for IDing the type of painting, for the advise on the paste wax and for leaving the seat as is if not falling apart. Do you think it is safe for the chair's welfare to be used? To be perfectly honest, I'm more concerned over damaging the chair then damaging a human's derriere/bum. :rolleyes:

    Thank you so much for your reply. Yes, there certainly is a wide variation of Boston rockers reproduced in the past 100 years. Some of the rockers called Boston rockers really aren't. For instances lower back ones like these really should be called Salem rockers. Many others are regular Windsor rockers. The Boston rocker was developed from Windsor chairs; therefore, a type of Windsor rocker. When JFK publically used a rocker, their popularity jumped by leaps & bounds. Many have called his rocker(s) Boston rockers in error. His rocker, I think, was an Appalachian rocker.

    --- Susan
    Mill Cove Treasures and komokwa like this.
  6. verybrad

    verybrad Well-Known Member

    I don't think the paint on the RL one is original myself and the price really reflects this. I really provided the link for the Nutting book but there are certainly some similarities between their rocker and yours. I would go ahead and use yours if it feels sturdy.
  7. Aquitaine

    Aquitaine Is What It IS! But NEVER BORED!

    Mine is nearly identical to yours, except it has nine spindles across the back, and MANY coats of black paint!!!!! Also pretty rickety!!!!! But I LOVE it!!!!! And it "ain't goin' nowhere!!!!!!" It's so comfortable.....I'm usually the one to sit in it when we have company because I DON'T want to see anyone else wind up on the floor :rolleyes::smuggrin::smug::joyful::joyful:
  8. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

    Again thank you Brad for the advise. The rocker in the book was very much similar except for the stenciling! As bad as this rocker's structure looks in areas, it is surprising sturdy. Even the damaged arm is tight.

    I was surprised mine didn't have more coats of paint. Possibly the seat cracked or the arm damaged many many decades ago resulting in it being shoved, stored, away with no need to repaint for not being used? I have the same thoughts about this rocker, it "'ain't goin' nowhere!!!'" either. Shhhh... between you, me and the fence post I care more for the rocker's welfare than for a homo sapien backend.

    --- Susan
    Aquitaine likes this.
  9. Mansons2005

    Mansons2005 Nasty by Nature, Curmudgeon by Choice

    And THIS fence post agrees that there are fewer and fewer homo sapien backends to care about these days...................
    Aquitaine likes this.
  10. Ladybranch

    Ladybranch Well-Known Member

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