Thursday, January 21, 2010

Antique Rocking Horse

Today I found one of the toys of my dreams: an antique rocking horse. As with my mechanical coin-op horse, I've wanted an antique rocker forever, but their typically large size has always been a problem in my small, crowded place of residence. Now, however, I've found this little beauty: a kiddie sized American horse, probably made by Whitney Reed, dating between 1900 and 1915, and measuring only 28 inches high by 31 inches wide. It's the perfect size for a large teddy bear, and I have several who are already lining up for their turns.

Here's a close-up of his beautiful head, with its real hair mane:

Update, one week later: I've just found some original advertising for my horse! 

It's a huge bonus to find documentation for an old toy, and here's what I've found about this guy. (Thank you, interlibrary loan service!)
It turns out his frame design was patented in 1878 by Philip J. Marqua and Brothers, a family woodworking firm in Cincinatti, Ohio.
The Marqua design was known as a "swing stand", with this variation called a "center swing horse". It was created as an alternative to the bow shaped rocker of the classic rocking horse, and was intended, in the words of its creator, to prevent "the objectionable features" from these traditional horses "now in use -- these objections are noise, wear and tear of carpets, liability to upset, and too much room taken up for operating or packing for shipment."
These were all common problems with large horses on traditional curved rockers, which made a racket as they swept back and forth along wooden floors, eventually wore a track into carpets due to the same motion, took up a large amount of space, and frequently flipped over during energetic rocking.

Here's the company's advertisement for the horse, as seen in the 1912 Sears Roebuck catalog. This one is a bit bigger than mine; they offered the same horse in several sizes:

And here's a photo of a horse on the same frame, dating from 1914. This horse is different, it looks like it may be a skin horse, but the interesting thing is that the frame is just like mine: painted and stencilled on the large central support bar, but not on the side rails. I had wondered if my side rails were replacements since they didn't have the red paint of the rest of the frame, but this photo answers that question. Based on this ad and photo, I think my horse is all original except for his stirrups, which I'll be removing.

Here's another ad for my horse, this one from the 1914 Butler Brothers catalog. This horse is attributed to Whitney Reed, and is almost identical to mine.


  1. O.K., Tracy. Christmas is over, so why do you keep getting presents? I never even see things like this. I am calling Santa right now to complain about favoritism.

  2. Well, it could be that I have an, ahem, "special relationship" with Santa...or, it could be that I'm just fiscally irresponsible...yep.

  3. Love this piece! So glad you've found one you can display in your home. I've got so many wonderful things stored - It's nice to have collections you can enjoy throughout the year. Hopefully I'll find some curio cabinets to put my little smalls in (that's what I collect- little tiny treasures!).

  4. I love smalls too! Did you see my very first post, which shows a printer's tray filled with tiny treasures? Gumball machine and Cracker Jack prizes are some of my favorite tiny toys. I've got a TON of stuff stored though, too, so I can relate. I've got all the Fisher Price Play Family/Little People sets and Hasbro's Weebles, and they fill my second bedroom/storage unit...

  5. I have one hanging in our store in Northern California. Its been hanging in the same spot for over 30 years. Its in pretty good condition. Has his forloc & tail but no mane or stirups. Is on the exact frame as pictured with boy standing. Horse is white. What do you think its worth?

  6. I really couldn't's virtually impossible to value things without seeing them, and the market is so volatile now. It would depend on so many factors: the actual condition of the horse, what the market is like in your area, etc.

  7. Wow! Great find! It looks so cute. It seems so perfect for those who have smaller spaces. Thanks anyway for sharing this information.

  8. There was a huge fire at the Marqua Co. in 1881. Burned down several blocks of the city of Cincinnati. One of the biggest fires in Cincinnati history. Bill

  9. There was a huge fire at the Marqua Co. in 1881. Burned down several blocks of the city of Cincinnati. One of the biggest fires in Cincinnati history. Bill