Canadian Rocking Chair
This charming blue rocking chair was produced in Canada in the 19th century. The back and seat maintain their original caning. Blue paint over ebonized wood reflects the nature of changing taste. Dark-coloured, ebonized wood was desirable in the 19th century, as genuine ebony had become too scarce to fulfill the market demand for fine furniture pieces. The blue paint was likely added at a later time. General wear has caused the colour to fade around the legs, rockers, and inner surfaces of the armrests, revealing patches of the ebonized wood. The present-day “shabby chic” trend of distressing antique furniture speaks to an appreciation for visibly worn surfaces. Here, the surface offers authentic and tactile clues about the life of this object in a Victorian home. The rocking chair is a relatively recent invention in furniture history, having first appeared in America in the 18th century. This chair’s complementary, serpentine rockers and armrests confirm it was not merely a chair-turned-rocking chair, but an intentionally designed, functional piece. The 19th century was a peak period for the production of rocking chairs in North America. Newly settled British Loyalists in rural Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) were especially fond of rocking chairs, as they were easy to construct and accessible to most social classes. The chair’s straight-back and classical revival ornaments could suggest a production date in the first half of the 19th century. The earliest rocking chairs tended to have straight backs. However, the clean, symmetrical arrangement of identically turned bulbs, balusters, and finials could indicate a production date in the late 19th century, when large-scale furniture manufacturing flourished in Upper Canada, Lower Canada, and Nova Scotia.
At this time in Canada, Queen Victoria (1819–1901) named Ottawa the new capital of the United Province of Canada. This decision surprised larger, more established cities like Montreal, Toronto, and Kingston. Ottawa was selected in large part due to its geographic location – relatively far from the American border and since it was surrounded by dense forest at the time. As Britain and America had been at war only 45 years earlier, Queen Victoria thought it would be prudent to protect the capital from any potential future attacks.