For some individuals, the perfect gift for baby, a rocking horse, is one steeped in tradition. Rocking horses have been around in one form or another for centuries. The earliest ones date back to the Hobby Horse. This was a stick to which was affixed a fake horse’s head. It was intended, like many toys of the time, to mimic the behavior of adults.
The Early Baby Rocking Horse
In the Middle Ages, hobbyhorses were a common toy for many children. The more majestic ones belonged to the children of the more wealthy classes. It was a popular toy. Although it still remains in use today, it was virtually replaced by what became known as a “Barrel Horse.” This consisted of a circular piece of wood to which were attached four legs and a fake horse head. Wheel could be attached to help knights practice.
The actual baby rocking horse, as we would recognize it, came into being in the 1600s. The oldest know surviving one belonged to the ill-fated Charles I (1600-1649), King of England. It was of a simple construction – 2 flat curved planes joined by a single seat plank and featuring a carved horse head and tail. Some of the early rocking horses could instead be towed around.
These rocking horses were heavy. Over the years, however, they became lighter and their lines more finely drawn. This was in keeping with the favored horses of the changing times. Heavy draught animals were replaced by graceful Arabians. The rocking horses continued to evolve soon having glass eyes and real tails and horse hair manes, but remained a constant in the nurseries of the wealthy.
Victorian or 19th Century Baby Rocking Horse
The industrial revolution had sparked a technological revolution. It also created a strong Middle Class. They, too, added a baby rocking horse to the nursery. It also launched the beginning of commercial rocking horse production. While British producers were favored worldwide, an American toymaker, P.J. Marqua of Cincinatti, Ohio, was responsible for creating and then patenting the safety stand in 1877. He helped to replace the standard – the Bow Stand, with the swinger or safety stand. It soon became the new standard for rocking horses around the world.
The 20th Century and Later
Both World Wars were to have an impact upon the making of baby rocking horse toys. They declined, recovered and declined again. Yet, nevertheless, they remained a favorite in many households. It appeared hand-carved rockers were to disappear forever, but a few skilled craftsmen and women revived the craft. Today, you can find an antique Bow Stand baby rocking horse. You can also purchase the latest trendy models online. Either way, you are keeping a tradition alive.
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