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Production Of Classic Rocking Chair To Stop

February 22, 1989

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) _ The Brumby Rocker, a classic chair on Southern porches for nearly a century and a fixture in Jimmy Carter’s White House, will rock into history when production ends later this month.

Carole Melson, who revived manufacture of the high-backed, cane-seated rocker in 1972, said supplies of air-dried oak boards needed for the rocker have dwindled in the past two years. Nearly all commercially available hardwood is kiln-dried.

So even though there are customers for the chairs, which cost $745 to $845, she decided to stop production at the end of the month.

″I’m fighting a losing battle here,″ Mrs. Melson said. ″I don’t want to substitute. It’s better to retire it than to mess it up.″

The chair, one of the oldest unchanged products still made in Georgia, has been called a Southern icon. Jimmy Carter took a Brumby to the White House with him when he was president.

Lt. Gov. Zell Miller, who has a Brumby in his office, said the decision to stop making them was ″a shame.″

″I wish I had more than one,″ he said. ″It’s one reason that I stay so mellow and in such good humor.″

Donald C. Peirce, decorative arts curator at the Atlanta High Museum of Art, which has a Brumby in its furniture collection, said Mrs. Melson ″was sort of reviving a craft tradition. It’s sad to see something like that no longer available.″

The Brumby Chair Co. started as a barrel-making operation shortly after the Civil War, Mrs. Melson said. The first rocker likely was built by 1875, and the design was put into production around 1890, she said.

At its peak, the company employed hundreds of workers at its Marietta plant and produced thousands of rockers a day. The company closed during World War II, she said.

Mrs. Melson said she discovered an old Brumby in the 1960s when she was looking for a comfortable chair in which to rock her children to sleep.

″I had to rock them by the hour,″ she said.

She and her husband, Frank, were so taken with the chair that they decided to bring it back and make it under license from the family-owned Brumby Chair Co., which existed only on paper.

Her husband died shortly before the couple’s Rocker Shop in Marietta opened in 1972.

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