Rocking chair history roughly follows the history of four-legged chair design, with rocking chairs manufactured in colonial, Victorian and even avant-garde, modern styles. Many of the most iconic rocking chair designs are still manufactured today, although the newer versions don't have nearly the market value of their antique counterparts.
Windsor chairs, recognizable by their curved backs and spindle legs, were first manufactured in southern England in the 17th century, but became a staple of colonial American furniture design brought across the Atlantic in 1726. Windsor rocking chairs first appeared around 1750, and have been manufactured almost continuously since, according to MyRockingChairs.com. Collectible Windsor chairs tend to fall into two basic groups--originals from the 18th and 19th centuries, and colonial-revival chairs, built from 1900 to 1930, that tend to exaggerate the already curved lines of the originals.
Bentwood rockers were pioneered by the Thonet brothers, Austrians who perfected the technique of steaming wood to create circular patterns in the early 19th century. These rockers are known for their deep-set backs, elaborately curved shapes, caning and relatively low cost.
In "Rocking Chair History," Designboom said that while the Thonet family was the leading manufacturer of bentwood, with 52 factories in Europe by 1900, their patent on wood steaming expired in 1869, allowing other manufacturers to use the technique. Modern and traditional variations on the bentwood rocker are still available commercially.
Straight-backed wooden, primarily oak, "mission" rockers were manufactured by a number of well known, early 20th century "arts-and-crafts" style design firms, including Greene and Greene and Gustav Stickley. Inspired by the furniture used in the Spanish-built missions of the American Southwest, these chairs became popular as an alternative to the highly decorative pieces of the Victorian era. Mission chairs bear the names of a variety of makers, but Stickley and Greene and Greene remain the most collectible, according to The Collector's Weekly.