Every day millions of parents and nannies push their children around in buggies and prams but how many of them stop to consider what life would be like without this precious vehicle? Until comparatively recently mothers would carry their children around with them in slings, a practice still common away from the busy streets of the developed world. So how did baby transport evolve into the modern buggies most commonly used today?
The First Prams
The first known example of a baby carriage was designed by William Kent, an English garden architect. He fashioned the new vehicle for the Duke of Devonshire, producing a perambulator in the shape of a shell which had a harness so it could be pulled by a goat or small pony. The pram was ornately decorated with a snake design and had a sprung suspension for a comfortable ride. The idea proved popular and soon enough the wealthy were transporting their children in extravagantly designed prams that were well beyond the means of the working classes. The first prams were styled like miniature carriages to be pulled by animals but evolved to include handles enabling people to manoeuvre the vehicles. Prams were becoming practical items rather than works of art or a means to entertain your child. It is possible that the original idea of the carriage-like pram was inspired by hop pickers who pulled their children around in small carts whilst working. Similar developments were taking place in America where in 1833 Benjamin Potter Crandall started selling his prams with his designs being enhanced at a later date by his son Jesse.
The early perambulators were quite dangerous, being unstable and often having no brakes. In England prams were usually designed with only two or three wheels as four wheeled vehicles were prohibited from public footpaths until 1875! In the 1840’s the idea of the pram became instantly popular with the aristocracy or Europe when Queen Victoria purchased three from the Hitchings baby store of Ludgate Hill. Models with names like Duchess, Princess, Windsor and Balmoral quickly sprung up but were still rather unsteady and impractical. In 1889 William H. Richardson applied for a patent that would change baby carriages forever. His design used a new joint which allowed a carrier called a basinet to be turned to face the operator of the pram or reversed to face forward. He also designed modified axles which allowed the pram to easily turn with each wheel moving independently. Until this time prams had fixed axles which made them extremely ponderous. Many of Richardson’s innovations are still in use today. The architecture of prams continued to be developed and by the 1920’s the vehicles were now stable, had brakes and were affordable to most families.
By the 60’s pushchair were in use but for mothers with prams a new problem had arrived. More and more people had cars and it was very difficult to pack away the deep bottomed style of prams that had become prevalent. The need to stow prams in the boots of cars saw a move to flat bottomed styles with removable carry cots. Another step forward came in 1965 when an aeronautical engineer called Owen Maclaren was inspired to design a new type of transporter following his daughter’s complaints about travelling with a heavy piece of equipment. He designed a lightweight foldable pushchair with an aluminium frame. The stroller or buggie had been born and the Maclaren company established.
Modern Baby Transport
Buggies or strollers continued their evolution with the introduction of models suitable for babies as well as toddlers. Today prams are far less common with most parents opting for the convenience of buggies which are now available in an incredible array of styles. There are buggies for babies, buggies for toddlers, travel systems that include a removable car seat and even all terrain models for the great outdoors. How things have moved on since the first prams pulled by goats!
Baby Nest is an online retailer of pushchairs and other baby equipment