Friday, July 29, 2011

A Beloved Childhood “Friend”…

On my new rocking horse, "Billy"
- note mother hiding on the left holding me on!
When I was one year old, my parents received a call from my father’s office, telling them that a package addressed to me had arrived there from Marshall Fields in Chicago, sent by a client/friend of my father.   When they arrived at the office to retrieve this mystery box, my parents were amazed that the “package” was actually a very large wooden crate in which was packed a beautiful large German rocking horse or Schaukelpferde.


Cowgirl Cassandra on Billy at age 3.
I named my horse “Billy” - he sported a real horsehair mane and tail; red wooden, western-style stirrups; a real leather bridle and reins; a glossy painted bright gold saddle; beautiful hand-painted eyes; a soft brown velvet painted coat; and a red bow-style rocker.  Billy was a beloved part of my early childhood years and those of my sisters and friends. 

Billy ridden by a young friend...
Today Billy resides at the home of my sister and brother-in-law where he is in process of restoration - soon to be enjoyed again by another generation: starting with my new granddaughter, Alice Annabelle! 

A Brief History of the Rocking Horse
For centuries as far back as ancient Greece and Persia, children have been enamored of toy horses, playing kings and queens, knights and damsels, cowboys and cowgirls, & etc., with these timeless toys, whether on a stick, pulled by a string, or built on wheels or rockers. 

Rocking horses first appeared in Europe, notably in Germany, in the seventeenth century and were especially popular in England during the Georgian and Victorian eras, when only the wealthiest of parents could afford such a luxury.  These elaborately handcrafted masterpieces, featured leather saddles and bridles, glass eyes and real horsehair manes and tails and were believed to help develop children's' balance for riding real horses.
Rocking horses were also produced in the United States, as well as in Europe, during the Victorian & Edwardian eras, as the Industrial Revolution introduced a larger and more affluent middle class as well as less expensive productions costs.  In 1880 a Cincinnatian invented and patented the “Safety Stand” or swinger base, which largely replaced the curved “bow” rocker of early years.  Many antique tin-types, cabinet cards, and early black and white photographs of children and their rocking horses can be found in both the U.S. and in Europe. 




Production progressed through the mid-twentieth century, at which time the crafting of fine rocking horses almost ceased.  During the past 20 years there has been an increasing quantity of skilled craftsmen around the world producing and restoring quality rocking horses.

 
A Sampling of Current Rocking Horse Craftsmen…



2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post! I've been neglecting my blogging a bit, and will have to come back here more often...

    ReplyDelete

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