How A President Rocked Our WorldFebruary 25, 2015
For the first in Jati’s 30 years of retailing, Jati has introduced a rocking chair to its range. Made of the same premium plantation teak Jati is renowned for, the Carolina Rocking Chair is a throw-back to the days when life was simpler and the clock seemed to tick more slowly. And of course, it continues a long tradition of one of the most popular and easily identifiable pieces of furniture around the world.
While many believe it was the great American Benjamin Franklin who invented the form, the origins of the rocking chair can be traced to the early 18th century, and perhaps even before. Originally created using an ordinary chair with rockers (the curved bands) attached, the design evolved with the use of wicker and bentwood, such that the production of wicker rocking chairs reached its peak during the American colonial era of the 18th century.
In Europe, rocking chairs also rose to prominence – firstly through the intricate bentwood designs of German craftsman Michael Thonet, and then by other furniture makers across the continent.
By the 1950s, the comfortable and opulent creations of Californian furniture designer and self-described “woodworker”, Sam Maloof, were much sought after. Later, consecutive American Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan both owned Maloof rockers.
But it was another great American President, John. F. Kennedy, who influenced the enduring popularity of the rocking chair most. In 1955, after having suffered from lingering back pain, the soon-to-be-president was prescribed swimming and the use of a rocking chair by his physician. This advice would ultimately make the P&P Chair Company of North Carolina famous.
The “Kennedy Rocker” as it was dubbed, soon found its way into the Oval Office and was even taken on Air Force One when the President travelled around the country and the world. Of 1920’s design, the back posts and rails were steam bent, while a cane seat and back offered a firm but natural spring. And such was JFK’s love for the chair that he apparently purchased at least 14 of them for Camp David and the Kennedy estates, as well as giving them as gifts to friends, family and even heads of state. Even the late Pope John Paul II reportedly kept a Kennedy Rocker in his bedroom.
Kennedy’s Oval Office rocker is on permanent display at the JFK Library & Museum in Boston, while two others from the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis estate fetched over $440,000 each at auction.