Antique Baby Carriages – 1848
Before strollers, parents were constantly inventing new ways to carry infant children around with them as they go about their day. Native Americans would hang cradle boards from a travois, a wooden sled-like frame, which was pulled by a horse when traveling. During the 1700’s, royal children were pulled along by a mini horse or goat in fancy shell-shaped baskets on wheels.
Charles Burton invented the “pram” in 1848 in New York City. The pram, short for perambulator, is a 4-wheeled cart with an infant’s bed that the baby is laid down in facing the person pushing as so to keep an eye on the baby’s face. The idea did not catch on, the public at the time felt it was not safe and too many pedestrians were being hit with carriages on the busy streets. Burton went back to England where he opened up factories to build his prams that became popular with royal families in Europe. Queen Victoria, the mother of nine children, ordered three. Prams, and other baby carriages, could be quite ornate with detailed decorations. Some applied the family crest to the side and many had fancy parasols and upholstery. These early carts and carriages were bulky and dangerous, resulting in accidents that injured and sometimes killed the young children.
It was ten years later in 1858 that two cousins, F. A & F.W. Whitney, opened the first American baby carriage factory in Leominster, Massachusetts. This area of town where the factory was located is now known as the F.A. Whitney Carriage Company Complex Historic District. The Whitney baby carriage motto was “Fashioned for Baby… in fashion for you”. Enhancements to the original carriage designs, such as brakes, better suspension and hoods that could be retracted, made baby carriages more popular over the next few years.
Antique prams and baby carriages are very stylish and still able to be used with care. They make great collector pieces as they often feature intricate designs. Wicker baby carriages sold for between $2.50 and $33.50 before World War II. Antique prams available today range in price depending on their age, condition and how ornate they are. A small plain pram runs about $75, antique wicker baby carriages go for $150 – $250, and more detailed carriages can cost far more. The PAST Antiques Marketplace at Nature’s Art Village has antique F.A. Whitney Company prams and baby carriages available, as well as other antique and vintage children’s accessories. Visit The PAST Antiques on Route 85 in Montville, Connecticut to see our full selection of antiques and vintage collectibles.
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