Antiques & Collectibles: Innovative patented chair rocks on

Patent rockers, such as this one, mass-produced in America from the 1870s through the early 20th century are valued at $150 to $200.

Question: The rocking chair shown in my photo was given to my grandmother by my grandfather during the 1930s. It is 47 inches high, works perfectly but has no identifying label, tag or mark. What can you tell me about it? - R.S.

Answer: Your platform rocking chair, also called a patent rocker or spring rocker, is one of thousands mass-produced by a number of American furniture companies from the 1870s through the early 20th century. The smoothly moving chairs were mechanical versions of mid-1800s armchairs on noisy skate rockers that rattled over wood floors and wore out carpets.

Hidden by each platform rocker's sturdy, shaped base was a hinged, spring-driven device such as those patented from 1869 to 1882 by New York City cabinet maker and inventor, George Jacob Hunzinger (1835-1898).

Latest Video

Early platform rockers were crafted from a variety of woods and styled to combine Eastlake influenced Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau design elements. Many feature high backs, fancy spool-turned spindles, ornamental finials and diagonal braces. Original upholstery materials included embossed leather, moquette carpet, tapestry or plush secured by decorative brass tacks. Sold as a single item or part of a parlor suite, the rockers frequently were featured in popular mail-order catalogs and often offered with customized finishes that included faux ebony and mahogany with gilt trim.

Your unmarked chair has been identified as a "Dexter" chair. If purchased as a new item by your grandfather during the 1930s, it was made by the Dexter Furniture Co., a Grand Rapids manufacturer from 1923 to 1940. However, if purchased on the secondary market, it may be an earlier example made at the H.C. Dexter Chair Co., Black River, N.Y., founded in 1838 and closed in the 1920s.

Asking prices for Dexter platform rockers currently range from $125 to $275, and one almost exactly like yours has sold for $180.

Question: While cleaning out our late grandmother's house, my sister and I discovered a small silver container with a handwritten "Cachous Box" label taped over marks on its bottom. The box, 1 1/2 inches long by 1 1/4 inches wide, is decorated with embossed flowers and scrolls. Its stamped marks are a walking lion, an anchor and "B&B" in a rectangle with angled corners. Information is appreciated. - S.G., Avalon

Answer: Cachous are tiny aromatic pills first used to sweeten the breath in the late 1870s. Often flavored with licorice, violets or lavender, such breath fresheners were initially carried in containers made of pressed cardboard or lithographed tin and later in boxes fashioned from precious metals frequently decorated with enamel or gemstones.

The marks on your piece indicate it is a sterling silver cachous box made by Barker Bros., silversmiths located in Birmingham, England from 1801 to 1992. Many similar examples, popular during the late Victorian era, presently sell for $75 to $100, based on condition.

Alyce Hand Benham is an antiques broker, appraiser and estate-liquidation specialist. Send questions to: Alyce Benham, Life section, The Press of Atlantic City, 11 Devins Lane, Pleasantville, N.J. 08232. Email:

Letters may be used in future columns but cannot be answered individually, and photos cannot be returned.

Stay informed! Sign up to receive top headlines delivered to your inbox each morning.

Recommended for you

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.