From baby carriage to umbrella stroller: a complete history.
The stroller is one of the most important (and expensive!) purchases a parent can make. But if you’ve ever been in a store with an unruly toddler you know the importance of strapping the kid down in a stroller. Maybe that’s what strollers are? A socially approved method for restraining your child?
Almost nothing beats the convenience of a stroller. It not only restrains and transports children, but it can carry all your baby gear as well. As any big city mom can attest, life without a stroller would not be a life worth living… or something like that.
Since the beginning of time, really, babies have been transported in a number of ways. But where did it all start?
Turns out, before the 1700s you likely would’ve been carrying your baby on your hip. According to multiple sources on the net, including the thehistoryof.net, the idea of the stroller was invented by a man named William Kent. Kent was a well-known garden architect in England. In 1733, the Duke of Devonshire asked Kent to build a means of transportation that would amuse his children. Kent built a shell shaped basket on wheels that the children could sit in. It was pulled by a goat or small pony.
When other wealthy parents saw the contraption they commissioned someone to build them one. Still, these were considered status items, something the everyday parent could never afford. These designs were modified in the next few years and when someone thought to add handles so parents could push their children Queen Victoria bought three carriages. That was the stroller’s big break. After Queen Victoria bought them, anybody who was anybody had a baby carriage. The name is derived from the fact that a stroller originally looked like a miniature horse-drawn carriage.
The stroller quickly became a must-have item. Each year brought a fancy new model that only the wealthiest could afford. And so it is today… some of us purchase the simplest stroller on the market – as long as it has wheels, we’re good to go. But, just like Queen Victoria, the royals of our day (celebrities) have the top-of-the-line gear.
From Victoria to Victoria, here then is a look at the evolution of the stroller, from Queen Victoria’s model all the way to Victoria Beckham’s likely choice.
The Wheels Are Set In Motion
"William Kent's invention to entertain the children of the Duke of Devonshire. A carriage that consisted of a wicker basket on wheels that was ornately decorated in accordance to the Duke's status. As you can see by the harness, it was designed to be pulled by goats or small ponies.
The First Baby Carriages With Handles
As they evolved in the years that followed, special handles were created. That was important because until then carriages and prams were designed as miniature horse-drawn carriages built to be pulled by dogs, goats or ponies. The new handles meant that the carriages were turning into a convenience for parents and not just a child's entertainment value as William Kent had in mind. The handles allowed parents to face-forward, grab the handles and pull the stroller behind them.
Another Example Of A Baby Carriage Parents Pulled In The Mid-1800s
Check this out! Many of the first prams and carriages were only made with two or three wheels because vehicles with four wheels were banned from foot paths. Several women were prosecuted for taking their babies on these public walking areas until lawmakers decided that new mothers with baby carriages didn't pose enough of a safety risk to be persecuted.
Baby Carriage Designed To Be Pulled
This seems to be the major method for transporting babies and toddlers until the invention of the handles we see on strollers today, which you'll read about in the next slide... Oooh suspense!
The Addition Of The Handle Allowed Parents To Push Rather Than Pull
In 1848 an American, Charles Burton, adapted the wheeled baby carriage to include handles, allowing it to be pushed rather than pulled making it a safer and more practical means of transport for children. Among the aristocracy, his baby carriage became an extravagant â€˜must- have' toy. Queen Victoria bought three thus making it The Thing To Do to have your child wheeled rather than carried by your nanny.
A Carriage Similar To What The Queen Would’ve Owned
These models were tall and unsafe, built of wood and wicker and held together by expensive brass joints. These were very fancy and became heavily ornamented works of art. The earliest carriages were high strollers on thin wheels that allowed for easy rolling on bad road, and low strollers on small wheels which better rolled on a smooth surface. Strollers were made to order and styled after carriages and stagecoaches. Models were also named after royalty. Princess and Duchess were popular names, as well as Balmoral and Windsor.
Richardson’s Patent Changes Everything
In 1889, an American man called William Richardson patented the world's first reversible perambulator (pram), where the bed could be rotated. The bassinet was designed so it could face out or in towards the parent. He also re-engineered the axles to allow each wheel to spin independently making cornering infinitely easier. Basically Richardson made the stroller super convenient and way more maneuverable. Many of Richardson's design modifications are still in use today.
Not Very Safe
Another example of how unsafe strollers were back then. Carriages were rickety and fitted onto high, thin wheels to make traveling on bad roads easier.
From The Late 1800s
Seriously! Is it not amazing that this was The Thing to own if you were a parent in the late 1800s?
A Late 1800s Baby Carriage In Action
I particularly love the photos in which the stroller is actually being utilized by those who would typically use it. Look how roomy they were!
Still another late 1800s stroller. Notice the wicker and large wheels. That was very typical of baby carriages made during this time period.
Another Wicker Baby Carriage
Again, a wicker carriage with metal wheels from the late 1800s.
Here is one of the earliest convertible models. It can convert from carriage to forward facing stroller.
Safety Features Become A Priority
When World War One drew to a close just before 1920, the ensuing baby boom opened the market for baby carriages to all but the poorest families. This mass marketing of baby carriages meant that safety really became paramount for baby carriage designers. Over the next several years foot brakes became a standard feature.
Sturdier frames and lower deeper frames also began to appear on the market so that children would have a hard time escaping the basket and even if they did, the fall to the ground wouldn't be as far. Several designs were used in the twenties and thirties, but eventually the high sided, large wheeled carriage that we still see today became the norm in baby carriage design. This particular carriage is from the 1920s.
This was kind of a bizarre decade for strollers. All the usual carriages were in production, of course, but these crazy little strollers that almost look like mini-cars were apparently all the rage.
Another Example of a Stroller From the 1930s.
Rubber and plastic parts became more common on prams and buggies, replacing the old wicker and wood models of earlier years. Chrome also became more prevalent, replacing those old expensive brass parts.
The War Years
This kooky contraption is an infant gas mask type carriage used for protection from potential poison gas attacks on England during WWII. I read a comment from one man on the internet who remembers seeing members of the royal family in London being taken for walks in these.
As prammuseum.com notes "This carriage is a very early mobile model, perhaps one of the first designed to be transported in a family sedan. Even though it is a full-sized buggy, its compact size when folded would also have made it easy to store." Can you imagine lugging this bad boy in and out of your car? Sheesh.
Typical 1940s Carriage
This is a late 1940's model.
Early Model Stroller
You can see the beginnings of the modern day stroller starting to take shape here. I believe this is a late 40s to early 50s model.
A Variety Of Strollers And Carriages
By the 1950s, strollers were a must-have for any new parents. Cheap materials and safe designs made buggies fashionable again, and this time everybody could afford them. This is an excellent photo from that decade showcasing showcases all the different strollers and carriages on the market.
Typical 1950s Baby Carriage
This carriage is representative of the style of carriages throughout the fifties. Notice they're being designed sleeker and aren't as clunky as earlier models. This particular model actual folds out into a forward facing stroller.
Here is a baby carriage from the sixties. It's fairly similar in style to the model from the fifties. But, as you're about to read, in the mid-sixties baby carriages were about to be left in the dust.
The Biggest Innovation In Strollers In The 20th Century
In 1965, Owen Maclaren, an aeronautical engineer, listened to his daughter complain about traveling from England to America with her heavy pram. He realized the need for a light, transportable stroller and went to work using his knowledge of airplanes. Maclaren built a light-weight aluminum frame that had amazing load-bearing capabilities but could also fold down to a compact size thus creating the first true umbrella stroller. This design took off and soon strollers quickly replaced prams and carriages as the vehicle of choice, a trend that continues to this day. Aspects of Maclaren's stroller can be found in literally every single stroller available in today's markets. Maclaren is still a big brand.
The 1980s – The Jogging Stroller Hits The Ground Rolling
A young father named Phil Baechler wanted the opportunity to spend time with his then infant son without forsaking his favorite pastime. He began bringing his son along with him in his baby carriage while jogging. Baechelor quickly discovered that standard carriages were not made to endure the stress of long distance usage over various surfaces, so he designed a specialized stroller with features more conducive to running. He aptly named it the Baby Jogger and started a company by the same name.
One of the earlier versions of Baechelor's Baby Jogger
The Double Stroller
I've scoured the internet trying to find out who made the first double stroller. It has to have been in the nineties, right? Does anyone know the answer to this? Obviously double strollers have come a long way in a short time. There are tandem double strollers, side-by-sides, double jogging strollers, the works.
The Modern Day Stroller
It seems like every few months I'm reading about some new-fangled stroller design that's all the rage among celebrities. This is the Bugaboo that can obviously be used for more than just transporting children. Basically, nowadays there is a stroller for every activity under the sun. Jogging, shopping, walking on a dirt road, rolling smoothy along a sidewalk... Whatever you need, they've got.
The Most Expensive Stroller
The stroller that may just be the most expensive stroller in the world is "The Roddler." It looks more like a classic car than a stroller. The fender design based on 50s Buicks, Oldsmobiles and the like. The stainless chassis is inspired by aircraft designs and the custom seat and top can be made of ostrich, stringray, alligator or cow hide. It even includes an iPod dock and DVD player. It can be customized with a variety of different colors as well as logos, your baby's name, etc. The price for a custom starts at $3500. Or course, this is reportedly Mariah Carey's stroller of choice.
The Most Expensive Baby Carriage
As you can see, prams and carriages have retained a classic feel. I believe this one, offered by Silver Cross, is the most expensive on the market. It retails for a cool $2,995.
The Stroller Of The Future
This year Porsche unveiled the P'4911. It was designed using carbon fiber and aluminum and features leather interior and top of the range ball-bearing wheels. A price hasn't been named yet but holy crap. It almost looks like it's floating. I mean, that's the future, right? Hovering strollers. And do you see how small it folds up? Man, strollers of the future are going to be INSANE.
I could not have written this post without The History of Strollers written by Garry Edwards, who I paraphrased several times in this piece.
Looking for something sporty or going for urban? Find yours at the Babble Best: Strollers!