Recently, I was diving deep into research for a story set in 1913.
Among the resource books piled on my desk was my trusty reproduction copy of a 1908 Sears, Roebuck & Co Catalog. I love all the little everyday details I can unearth in its many pages!
I was searching for baby gear that day. Partly because it tied into the story I was writing (the heroine is a nanny to three little ones), and party because I’ve had baby on the brain for the last few months as we awaited the arrival of my niece’s first baby.
In particular, I was interested in a description of baby carriages.
I wanted to see images of what they would have looked like during that time period.
Did they have any unique features or selling points? What would make a young mother decide to purchase this option or that one?
I had grand visions of ornate carriages with flowery details.
What I didn’t anticipate was to be so surprised by the product description.
Notice anything strange in the description?
They called them Go-Carts!
I had no idea they’d ever been labeled as go-carts.
On the following page they had advertisements for baby carriages.
I studied both pages for a while, reading the descriptions, trying to figure out what the difference could be.
At first I thought that perhaps a carriage meant the baby could rest flat and a go-cart meant they were sitting upright. But the go-carts advertise being able to recline.
Then it a light bulb went off. I think the difference is that go-carts can be moved into different positions and many of them could be folded flat (how handy!) like a stroller.
I tried to dig up some research to either confirm my idea or dash it, but I have yet to find anything that talks about go-carts from Victorian or Edwardian days.
I did find an interesting history of baby carriages, though.
William Kent, a landscape architect, designed the first carriage in 1733. It was created for the children of the Duke of Devonshire. Kent constructed a shell-shaped basket on wheels the children could sit in and be pulled by a goat or pony.
Wealthy families were Kent’s primary customers.
The 19th century was a time when parks and recreational spaces were enjoyed as family strolls became popular. An economical way to take babies along needed to be developed.
Benjamin Potter Crandall manufactured a new design in the early 1800s. He claimed his baby carriages were the first manufactured in the US, although it’s been argued
the F.A. Whitney Carriage Company may hold the title. At any rate, Crandall developed a style that could could be pushed rather than pulled. His design was largely rejected. His son son, Jesse, eventually took over the business and made some additions, including a brake and added a model that folded as well as parasols and accessories. Reportedly, Queen Victoria purchased three of them which made his designs a must-have for mothers everywhere.
Carriages were built of wood or wicker and held together with expensive brass joints. Often, they turned into ornamented works of arts.
Models were named after royalty, like Princess and Duchess.
Charles Burton created the first “pram” or perambulator. It had a three-wheel push design and looked a little like an arm chair on big spoke wheels. Customers found it unwieldy and complained about the design, but Burton was determined to succeed. He took his design to England where he found popularity once the royals began using it. In the UK, the word pram is used to describe a carriage, because of the popularity of the perambulator.
In 1889, William H. Richardson patented the idea of the first reversible carriage. The bassinet was designed to face out or in toward the parent. Until that point, the axis didn’t allow each wheel to move separately, but Richard’s design increased maneuverability.
Before long, go-carts were being advertised that could fold flat, recline and more.
As the new century advanced, so did improvements with baby carriages and strollers until we reached today’s models, filled with accessories and safety features.
If you’d like to find out more about the story that necessitated this research, look for Evie, coming May 23! It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/y4gnadrk
Will love bloom between a spunky nanny and a distracted landscaper?
Unconventional nanny Evie Caswell views it as her duty to bring fun and laughter to the residence of her strict, aloof employers. Full of life and spirit, she is determined to teach the couple’s children how to be young and carefree. With hardly a minute to herself, she long ago surrendered her dreams of having her own home and a family. Then her employer hires Flynn Elliott, a landscape architect, to turn the yard into a spectacular garden. Enchanted with the intriguing man, Evie realizes after meeting Flynn nothing in her life will ever be the same.
Renowned for his landscape designs and ability to make anything grow, Flynn Elliott is a bit of an enigma. He spouts romantic poetry to the plants in his greenhouse and stealthily avoids social interactions, yet can charm birds right out of the trees when the need arises. While his sister handles the finer details of their business, he often loses himself in his work, forgetting the outside world exists. A chance encounter with a beautiful woman in a moonlit garden leaves him seeking opportunities to discover more about the effervescent Evie and the joy she radiates to those around her.
Will the two of them be able to set aside their doubts and fears to embrace a happily ever after?
Brimming with lighthearted moments, snippets of history, and the hope of true love, Evie is a sweet historical romance sure to warm your heart.
Oh, and if you’re wondering, my niece and her sweet husband welcomed a bouncing baby boy April 2! I was there for his arrival, but can’t wait to return for a visit and hold Baby T again!
If any of you know any history about the difference in go-carts and baby carriages, I’d love to learn more.
In the meantime, feel free to share your favorite “baby” item. What makes your heart pitter-patter and think of babies when you see it? A blanket? An adorable pair of booties? Sweet little onesies?