Rocking horse

ca. 1900

The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong National Museum of Play

The form of the rocking horse evolved from the cradle with which it shares the function of comforting its occupant via a lulling motion. When horses were first used for recreation, when they carried the wealthy and highborn to the fox hunt and when horseracing first encouraged Europeans to watch the races and wager on the outcome, wooden rocking horses began to appear in the nurseries of the wealthy's children. The first wooden rocking horses looked like cradles, adapting a cradle's form so that toddlers could begin to entertain themselves. Fathers and grandfathers with spare time and carpentry skills sawed and joined two upright, solid boards (the curved base of each formed the rocker) with a horizontal seat topped by a horse's head. By the 18th century, the solid rockers gave way to lighter, more professional products as elegantly carved legs attached to long, curved bows. In the next century, mass production made sleek rockers available to a growing number of middle-class children at prices their parents could afford. By Victorian times, the rocking horse we know today became a fixture of childhood. The new materials of the 20th century and safety concerns changed the appearance of the rocking horse but not of a child's appreciation for the hypnotic motion, the illusion of speed, or the fantasy of chasing wonders and conquering worlds.

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  • Title: Rocking horse
  • Date Created: ca. 1900
  • Location: USA
  • Type: Riding Toys
  • Medium: artificial leather, wood, leather
  • Object ID: 73.146