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By: Anonymous

Date: 1897

Source: © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis.

About the Artist: This image is part of the collection of the Corbis Corporation, headquartered in Seattle, with a worldwide archive of over seventy million images. The artist is not known.


Throughout history, new mothers have faced the challenge of carrying their young children. While the smallest babies can be easily held in the arms for short distances, longer journeys often require more elaborate arrangements, and mothers in various cultures have created numerous tools for this purpose. The modern aluminum and nylon baby backpack is surprisingly similar in form and function to the wooden papoose boards used by native American women to carry infants on their backs.

The advent of sidewalks and surfaced roads paved the way for a new type of baby conveyance, the stroller. The first ancestor of the modern baby stroller was created in the 1700's for an English Duke and his family. Less a stroller than a miniature carriage, this first design was intricately decorated, rested on a spring suspension, and was designed with a harness so it could be pulled by a large dog or a pony. The novel contraption soon caught on and wealthy families throughout Europe began buying them for their own children, though they were far more useful for play than for practical conveyance.

In the following years, the carriage gradually evolved, with the most important change being the addition of handles so the carriage could be pushed by an adult. While carriages slowly gained popularity, they remained something of a novelty until around 1840, when England's Queen Victoria purchased three. Though still somewhat unstable and hard to maneuver, carriages quickly became fashionable accessories, sporting royal-sounding names like Duchess and Princess. Like many new developments, the carriages were not universally accepted and some localities initially banned them from public sidewalks, though these bans were soon lifted.

A turning point in the history of baby carriages came in 1889, as William Richardson patented several changes that made the traditional baby carriage far more like its modern counterpart. Richardson's design included a rotating joint that allowed the baby to ride facing forward or backward, as well as independently rotating wheels that permitted the carriage to turn in a much smaller radius. The years following Richardson's work witnessed a flurry of design improvements, and by the 1920s, carriages with foot brakes and numerous other features were widely available at prices affordable to most families.



See primary source image.


During the twentieth century, baby carriages continued to improve, evolving from heavy wood and steel construction to lightweight metal frames with plastic handles and air-filled tires. Despite these improvements in weight and usability, the traditional carriage remained bulky and difficult to transport, limiting its practical use to areas near home. In 1965, a tinkering engineer created the first lightweight folding stroller, known as an umbrella stroller, which weighed just a few pounds, folded into a small cylinder, and could carry children of many sizes in comfort and safety. The umbrella stroller quickly replaced the traditional carriage for most families.

As the twentieth century neared its end, manufacturers created an ever-expanding assortment of strollers. Some offered additional convenience features such as larger wheels for better handling, while others appealed to specific niche markets, including strollers designed to carry twins or triplets. As the run-ning craze of the 1970s swept the nation, joggers found that traditional strollers were poorly suited to the new pastime. In 1980, one enterprising runner began experimenting with bicycle tires mounted on a traditional stroller, eventually settling on a three-wheeled design that became the standard for jogging strollers. Many road races include parents pushing a child using one of these devices.

Modern strollers are available in numerous standard styles and can be ordered in a multitude of custom models. With Americans postponing child-raising until later in life, they generally have more income to spend on their children; as a result, baby and child care products take up a sizeable section of most grocery and discount stores, with new variations on old products continually hitting shelves. By 2005, Americans were spending more than $6 billion just on essentials such as diapers, wipes, formula and baby food, and teething toys. With U.S. birthrates relatively level, manufacturers have been forced to innovate, creating new products in order to steal market share from competitors. Several hundred years after the first luxury baby carriages were created, wheeled baby carriers are considered essential equipment by most parents.



Gordon, Sandra. Best Baby Products, 8th edition. New York: Consumer Reports, 2006.

Iovine, Vicki and Peg Rosen. Girlfriends' Guide to Baby Gear. New York: Perigee Books, 2003.

Runkel, Hal. ScreamFree Parenting: Raising Your Kids by Keeping Your Cool. Duluth, Georgia: Oakmont Publishing, 2005.


Abramovitz, Robert. "Parenthood in America." Journal of Clinical Child Psychology 5 (1976): 43-46.

Hardin, Amy. "First Comes the Baby Carriage." New York Times (October 13, 2005): G1-G2.

Tucker, Nicholas. "Boon or Burden? Baby Love in History." History Today 43 (September 1993):28-35.

Web sites

Congress of History of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "Beautiful Baby Clothes on Display in Lakeside Museum." 〈〉 accessed July 16, 2006).

Victoriana. "The Golden Age of Carriages." 〈〉 (accessed July 16, 2006).

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