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What Was Unusual About the First Baby Carriages?

Margaret Lipman
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Whether you call it a stroller, buggy, pushchair, baby carriage, or pram, having a wheeled transportation method for getting your baby or toddler out and about is an indispensable part of modern life.

Baby carriages as we know them have only been around for about 200 years, and today’s strollers boast an incredible array of features designed to keep young children safe and make parents’ lives easier. They’ve certainly come a long way from what is widely considered the first baby carriage, created by English architect and furniture designer William Kent in 1733. In addition to designing the third Duke of Devonshire’s London townhouse (and its furnishings), the multi-talented Kent was asked to devise a contraption for transporting the Duke’s children around. His invention was a wheeled, lavishly decorated basket for the children to sit in. But rather than being pushed by a parent or caregiver, this shell-shaped basket was intended to be pulled by a goat or pony.

However, this design proved to be more fanciful than functional. A century later, as urban amenities improved and upper- and middle-class families increasingly enjoyed leisure time to “perambulate,” significant improvements were made to the baby carriage or perambulator, better known as a pram. By the early 1840s, prams and baby carriages were so popular that Queen Victoria ordered several for her family. Nineteenth-century prams were expensive, ornate items made of wood, wicker, and brass, with poor maneuverability by today’s standards.

Let's go for a stroll:

  • Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, prams and baby carriages continued to become safer, sturdier, more affordable, and more maneuverable. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that strollers began to truly resemble their modern counterparts.

  • We have aeronautical engineer Owen Maclaren to thank for the umbrella stroller, with a lightweight aluminum frame that collapses and folds for easy storage. Maclaren, now the namesake of a prominent British manufacturer of baby buggies, was inspired to create a travel-friendly alternative for his daughter, who had great difficulty taking her pram between England and the United States.

  • Strollers are great, but today’s parents are also experts on wearing their babies. But if you thought babywearing was just a recent trend, think again. Numerous cultures throughout history have devised slings and wraps so that mothers could carry their babies hands-free. There’s even a 1306 fresco by the Italian artist Giotto in which the Virgin Mary wears a sling to carry the infant Jesus.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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