Rapid Rocker by Ralph Rapson

The image above is a 1950's photo of the Ralph Rapson designed Rocking Chair that David B. Runnells owned in his home in Fairview, Kansas. If I had to guess, I would say that it is draped over with a Swedish or Scandinavian wool weaving. The rocker is still in the family and is owned by David's daughter Jill.

The rocker is even more significant because Runnells and Rapson worked on several design competitions together while they were both working in the Saarinen offices in Michigan. In fact, the earliest version of the rocker was done for The Museum of Modern Art, "Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition," 1940-41, while Rapson and Runnells were working together on other competition projects. More on that later. One would asssume that this furniture purchase was a little homage to his friend Ralph.

Ralph Rapson. Rocking Chair for the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings Competition," The Museum of Modern Art. 1940-41. Black painted frame, reupholstered with linen webbing 32 x 28 3/4 x 39"; seat h. 14 3/4". Collection Ralph Rapson.

Manufacturer: Knoll
Name: (Rapson) Rocking Chair
Designer: Ralph Rapson
Model Number: 57 U
Production: 1945-46
Dimensions: Unknown.
Materials: Birch frame with fully upholstered seat and back
Photo by:
Ralph Rapson

The image above is photo of the rocker design as it looked when it was in production with Knoll as a part of the Knoll "Rapson Line." The rocker was one of eight products introduced by Rapson. I scanned this image from a 1945 Knoll catalog. This is the "solid wood" version that Runnells owned and the version that Knoll sold at Bloomindales. Bloomingdale's took out a full-page ad in the New York Times to promote the chair, proclaiming it an "innovative and attractive modern take on a traditional piece."

More recently, a bentwood version of the design has been released to the public and is still in production. The chair is based on sketches from 1942 that are obviously done after the MoMA design, but predate the 1945 Knoll "solid wood" production. A bentwood prototype version of the Rapsin Rapid Rocker was shown in a 1951 photograph in the book, Rapson: 50 years of Modern Design. This newer bentwood design is now available from the Wieler Store and Highbrow Furniture.
To ensure that the chair meets the architect's original standards of quality, production is being overseen by Rapson Architects of Minneapolis, MN. The maple frame is finished with two coats of clear lacquer. The seat is upholstered with a high-quality polyolefin fabric. The fabric resembles wool and is is exceptionally tough and stain-resistant. The chair's dimensions are 26.25" wide, 35" high, and 33.25" deep, with a weight of about 30 pounds.