This is just a chair, and single Eastlake chairs are worth very little.
Dear Helaine and Joe:
My little rocker appears to be walnut and is 29 inches tall. It is in great condition, but we had the seat re-caned in 1985. We understand that this type of seating is called an “Eastlake nanny rocker.” Why is it called this? What are its age and value?
B.S., Syracuse, N.Y.
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Late-19th-century furniture that is said to be in the “Eastlake style”derives this appellation from Charles Locke Eastlake (1846-1906), who was an architect plus a commenter on popular tastes.
Eastlake hated the ornate and derivative Victorian Rococo and Renaissance Revival substyles popular at the time in both England and the United States. He was actually part of a large reform movement that emphasized simple home décor in support of a healthy living environment.
At the time, for example, heavily carved and ornamented pieces and lavishly upholstered items were thought to harbor dust and germs.
In 1868, Eastlake wrote “Hints on Household Taste in Furniture, Upholstery, and Other Details.” e was part of the English Arts and Crafts movement, which stressed quality of workmanship and attention to simple ornamentation, and in his book he suggested that cohesive and simple styles be used in the home.
Unfortunately, Eastlake’s ideas were perverted by furniture makers — particularly those in the United States. At first, the “Eastlake” pieces were in walnut, but later (circa 1895), oak predominated. The furniture was entirely machine-made with severe rectangular forms, and the decoration was generally no more than some shallow incised lines.
Eastlake furniture is not rare. It can be found in great abundance in antiques malls and shops across the United States. The example in today’s question has lovely incised lines in the form of a pair of pheasants on its back, and the crest rail has a hole in the middle so a hand could be poked through to move this piece easily.
The chair in today’s question is a simple Victorian Eastlake-style rocking chair. “Nanny rockers” (in some cases called “mammy rockers”) are really benches that have a place for the caretaker to sit while the baby lies beside her. There is usually a slat or bar in front of the baby portion to prevent the child from rolling off as he or she is rocked gently back and forth.
True “nanny rockers” were most often made in the Windsor style and usually date to the first half of the 19th century. These pieces are interesting from a historical perspective, and depending on condition and whether they have a painted or stenciled surface, can be worth hundred of dollars and sometimes a bit more.
But this is just a chair, and single Eastlake chairs are worth very little. The circumstance that this is a rocking chair helps a bit. It is a shame, but the cost of re-caning was probably more than the insurance replacement value, which is in the neighborhood of $75 to $100.
(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of “Price It Yourself”(HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.)