The Hitchcock Rocking Chair: A Tale of Timeless Elegance

As a woodworker and DIY enthusiast here in Chicago, I’m always eager to dive into the history behind iconic pieces of furniture. The Hitchcock rocking chair is one of those enduring classics that I find fascinating. From its ingenious origins to its iconic design elements, there’s much to appreciate about this quintessentially American seating choice.

In this post, I’ll give you an in-depth look at what makes the Hitchcock rocking chair special. We’ll explore its background, unique characteristics, cultural impact, collecting tips, and preservation. My goal is to help readers see these chairs as I do – as ingenious feats of design that also represent an essential part of our nation’s craftsmanship heritage.

So settle into your favorite rocker, and let’s get rolling on the story behind this iconic chair!

A Brief History of Hitchcock Chairs

While rocking chairs have been around since the 1700s, the Hitchcock version has its unique origin story.

Director Rocking Chair

It all began with Lambert Hitchcock – no relation to Alfred Hitchcock as far as I know! Lambert Hitchcock was a Connecticut native born in 1795. After becoming a chairmaker’s apprentice as a teenager, he opened the Hitchcock Chair Company in Riverton, CT, in 1818.

At the time, most furniture was hand-crafted and expensive. Hitchcock had a brilliant idea to bring mass production techniques from clockmaking into his chair-building. He created interchangeable wooden parts that could be quickly assembled by workers – upending the laborious custom process typically used for chairs.

The chairs were simple but striking, with broad back panels, shapely turned legs, and the iconic Hitchcock stenciled designs. This combination of mass production and artistry brought affordable, stylish seating to Americans of modest means.

The Hitchcock Chair Company had its ups and downs, changing hands over the decades before being revived in the 1930s. But the legacy of Lambert Hitchcock lives on in these ingenious chairs that made comfortable, artistic furniture accessible to the masses.

What Makes Hitchcock Rocking Chairs Special?

So what sets Hitchcock rocking chairs apart from other types you may find at flea markets or your grandma’s house? Here are some of the key identifying features:

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What Are The Different Types Of Hitchcocks

Materials and Finish

  • Traditionally made of maple, oak, or birch for durability 
  • Painted black or dark forest green, later expanding to other hues 
  • Distinctive yellow-gold pinstripes accent the turned legs and edges 

Construction

  • Assembled using mass-production interchangeable parts 
  • The broad, curved chair back and generous seat for comfort 
  • Contoured armrests flowing into the back slats 
  • Turned front legs and straightforward straight rear rockers 

Stenciling Designs

  • Metallic paint stencils in red, blue, and gold – Hitchcock’s ingenious trademark! 
  • Motifs include flowers, leaves, scrolls, geometric shapes 
  • “The name””L. HITCHCOCK” prominently displayed “The name “L. HITCHCOCK” prominently displayed. 

This combination of sensible form, bold colors, and artful stenciling makes Hitchcock chairs iconic. The stenciling, in particular, was revolutionary – adding a bespoke element through decoration versus intricate woodcarving.

This efficient technique allowed the chairs to be affordably mass-produced while still possessing a custom, hand-crafted look and feel.

vintage Hitchcock chair

Hitchcock Chairs Become An American Institution

So how did these ingeniously designed chairs go from Lambert Hitchcock’s Connecticut workshop to becoming beloved emblems of Americana?

As the still-new United States expanded westward in the 1800s, Hitchcock chairs entered parlors and kitchens across the land. Their innovative styling and affordable price made them sought-after furniture for families furnishing new homesteads.

The chairs’ country charm appealed to urban dwellers, furnishing apartments and rowhouses as cities grew. Their patented mass-production process allowed the volume to meet this growing demand.

By the early 1900s, Hitchcock chairs had become ingrained in American interiors. They gained status as nostalgic emblems of colonial times and traditional domesticity. Owning a Hitchcock chair signaled old-fashioned values like craftsmanship, simplicity, and home.

“Hollywood took notice of the chairs’’ quintessential New England vibe. Hitchcock chairs appeared in classic films like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” from 1960.”Hollywood took notice of the chairs’ quintessential New England vibe. Hitchcock chairs appeared in classic films like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” from 1960.

Today, these chairs are prized antiques beloved for their enduring style. Contemporary designers also pay homage by adapting Hitchcock’s iconic contours into new furniture pieces.

Hitchcock style rocking chair

“The brilliant Lambert Hitchcock couldn’t have dreamed how far his innovative chairs would ripple through history. But two centuries later, his legacy still”“rocks” on!”The brilliant Lambert Hitchcock couldn’t have dreamed how far his innovative chairs would ripple through history. But two centuries later, his legacy still “rocks” on!

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Identifying Genuine Hitchcock Rocking Chairs

“Part of the enduring appeal of Hitchcock rocking chairs is their vintage, antique charm. But how do you know if a chair billed as”“Hitchcock” is the real deal versus a fake? Here are some tips for identifying authentic specimens:”Part of the enduring appeal of Hitchcock rocking chairs is their vintage, antique charm. But how do you know if a chair billed as “Hitchcock” is the real deal versus a fake? Here are some tips for identifying authentic specimens:

Check for a Stencil

Genuine Hitchcock chairs bear a painted stencil, typically on the chair’s crest rail. There were three versions over the years as the company changed hands and locations:

  • “”L. Hitchcock/Hitchcocksville/Connecticut/Warranted”””L. Hitchcock/Hitchcocksville/Connecticut/Warranted”
  • ““Hitchcock, Hubbard, & Co/Hitchcocksville/Connecticut/Warranted””“Hitchcock, Hubbard, & Co/Hitchcocksville/Connecticut/Warranted”
  • ““L. Hitchcock/Unionville/Connecticut/Warranted” ““L. Hitchcock/Unionville/Connecticut/Warranted” 

Study the Materials and Paint

Actual Hitchcock chairs have seats made of rush or cane. Their frames utilize durable woods like maple, oak, or birch. Look for the iconic painted pinstripes on the front legs and the original black or forest green paint.

Assess the Style

Authentic Hitchcock rockers have the quintessential shape: contoured back, decorative turned legs, and a unique blend of mass-produced yet hand-finished elements.

Ask About Provenance

A paper trail proving the chair’s origins and ownership history boosts collectability—the older and better documented, the more valuable.

Doing your Hitchcock homework helps ensure you’ll recognize the real deal when you see it!

how to identify a Hitchcock rocking chair

Where to Find Antique Hitchcock Rockers

Once you know what to hunt for, where are the best places to track down your piece of Hitchcock history?

Auction Houses

Reputable auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s periodically feature antique Hitchcock rocking chairs among their collectibles listings. The competition can be fierce, however – these chairs often fetch several thousand dollars!

Antique Shops

Brick-and-mortar antique shops are another excellent place to browse for Hitchcock rockers. Long-established shops tend to have the best selection and can share details about a chair’s history.

Online Listings

Scouring eBay, Etsy, Chairish, and other sites for vintage Hitchcock rockers can turn up hidden gems. Just be wary of condition and authenticity when buying sight unseen.

Hitchcock rocking chair reproductions

Estate Sales

Keep an eye out for estate sales in historic New England towns. You may luck into elderly locals or antique dealers parting with coveted Hitchock seating.

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With time, patience, and luck, you can land the perfect vintage Hitchcock rocker to welcome into your home. Happy antiquing!

Caring for Your Hitchcock Heirloom

If you’re fortunate to own an antique Hitchcock rocker, you’ll want to preserve its legacy for generations. Here are some tips for protecting your vintage gem:

  • Keep it out of direct sunlight to prevent fading and brittle wood.
  • Avoid placing in moist areas prone to mold growth.
  • Dust regularly using a soft cloth to prevent dirt buildup in crevices.
  • Test cleaners on inconspicuous areas to avoid damaging the original paint.
  • Consider professional refinishing to protect worn surfaces – ask about retaining aged character.
  • Repair loose joints, stabilized rockers, and smooth rough areas to prevent further damage.
  • Add felt pads to the bottoms of the rocker’s feet to prevent floor scratches and improve gliding.
  • If re-caning or rushing the seat, select an experienced craftsperson using traditional techniques.

With proper care and maintenance, your Hitchcock keepsake can stay in the family for generations of cozy rocking!

Caring for Your Hitchcock Heirloom

New Life for a Timeless Design

While antique Hitchcock rockers have an enduring appeal, this innovative design also lives on through modern interpretations. Contemporary designers create new iterations that pay homage to Lambert Hitchcock’s ingenious original.

These updated rockers retain mid-century inspiration from the chairs’ peak popularity, blended with current trends like:

  • Sleek, minimalist shapes
  • Bold color combinations and patterns
  • Eco-friendly materials like bamboo and recycled plastic
  • Customization options with bespoke fabrics and finishes

Modern manufacturers are also reviving production using sustainable, non-toxic methods. This honors the Hitchcock legacy of efficiency and environmental responsibility.

Owning a piece of furniture history doesn’t have to mean finding an expensive antique. Today’s Hitchcock-inspired rockers let you enjoy comfort, nostalgia, and contemporary style.

So, while Lambert Hitchcock created his revolutionary chairs over 200 years ago, their timeless appeal endures. The Hitchcock rocker is an iconic blending of form, function, and ingenuity. Here’s to many more years of happy, rocking relaxation!