A family heirloom
There's few things more precious than an old, worn piece of furniture that's been in the family for goodness knows how long.
This was and is, simply, "Nana's chair," and we know nothing about it, save that my great-grandmother, nee Nellie Trueheart (b. 1881), always sat in it. My uncle was kind enough to pass it on to me, reluctantly, and I keep it in my bedroom.
Nana used to snooze or read books in it. I use it for reading things on my iPad.
Using that iPad, I just discovered that it resembles a much more famous rocking chair from the mid-1800s.
Left: Reupholstered in the 1990s, it originally had a Victorian-era navy lace pattern like a brocade.
Photographed by Matthew Brady, 1865
The Lincoln Rocker was catapulted into infamy when James Ford, owner of the Ford Theater, borrowed it his brother Henry to provide suitable seating for President Abraham Lincoln on the eve of his assassination. The chair suited Lincoln's taste and was used by him whenever he attended the theater, since with his long legs he tended to lean back and preferred rocking chairs.
Photographer Matthew Brady snapped this photo and another of the mahogany rocking chair a few days later, and sold them for profit. The chair's original owner never got it back, as the government seized it for evidence and gave it back to the Ford family 60 years later. Another famous but unrelated Ford, Henry Ford, purchased the chair and placed it in his Deerbourne, MI museum.
same general style, but obviously not an imitation
I'm guessing that wooden rocking chairs with that characteristic swaybacked profile and scrolled armrests were fairly common at the time of Lincoln's death, but the Brady photo may have given the style extra popularity. Nana's certainly was not based directly on Lincoln's chair, since it's a perfect fit for a five foot tall woman!
However, I knew none of this until I went hunting on the net. To me, it was just a memento of my Nana. We were lucky: she lived until the ripe old age of 102. I was ten years younger. I have vague but warm memories sitting in her lap in this chair when I visited my grandparents' house, listening to her lullabies.
After she passed away, I claimed the chair and would rock in it (or sleep in it) for hours. I hope the cracks on the mahogany arms aren't from that period.
Sooner or later, I need to get it checked out and repaired, but I'm terrified to move it or relinquish it to anyone. It's still in great shape, and still works as a rocker.
I wish I remembered her better, but I'm lucky to remember her at all
Nellie Trueheart Brundige, 1881-1983
Nana was a character, a working girl who married late so she could make a life for herself first at a time when old maids were unusual, she had her first children at age 39 in 1920.
Nana took everything in stride from the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 to the Moon Landing, danced with me in the 1970s at my uncle's wedding, and was still taking daily walks until she was almost 100.
She had a "little old me" poker face that made her a deadly card shark, yet she carried herself an angel's restraint: the worst she ever said of anyone is that "he's a little bit peculiar."
Right: Nellie at about age 30, looking dapper and rather more serious than I remember her.
Same general style
Antique Maple Lincoln Rocking Chair with Cane seat and back
Antique Lincoln Rocking Chair with Cane Back