Today any household with an infant is more than likely equipped with a baby stroller all it's own. However, there was a time when a the baby carriage (as it was first known) was considered a luxury only afforded by those of elite society. The history of strollers extends back centuries in time even before the first automobile made its debut.
The Beginning: The First Baby Buggy
In 1733, a man named William Kent who was by trade a garden architect was well known for his work. He was commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire to create a mode of transportation to carry his children. His design was a shell shaped carriage with a harness that could be pulled by an animal such as a goat or dog. He made sure to add springs to the carriage so that the children would have a more comfortable ride. As they sat straight up and were pulled along their ride was more like that of an adult carriage ride of the day, only a smaller version.
The news of the Duke's new possession soon spread amongst the wealthiest circles in all of Europe. Initially, a carriage could only be afforded by those with money and were designed lavishly as detailed works of art.
In 1840, Queen Victoria purchased three baby carriages for herself and set the standard for high society at the time. It became considered a status symbol of the day. If one was to be a part of high society, they must have a baby stroller. The carriages however, weren't very functional nor were they very safe. These carriages were much too high allowing for a good distance were a child to fall out and without the aspects of aerodynamics and good engineering which is evident in the strollers today.
Time for a Change: Put it in Reverse!
In 1889 a man by the name of William H. Richardson patented his own idea for a more functional baby carriage which is still reflected in today's modern strollers. He invented the first reversible baby carriage.
His carriage was designed with a joint in the center that allowed for the bassinet part of the carriage to be turned toward the person pushing. It could be turned to a forward facing position as well. His design is the most common image associated with the earliest baby buggies.
Richardson also engineered the axles on the wheels to allow all four wheels to move independently of one another. Until then, the wheels provided very little mobility when turning in a different direction. His new carriage was able to turn a full 360 degrees with more ease and occupy a smaller turning space.
War Time: A New Market
In 1920, the end of World War I was drawing near. The economic adjustments due to the war and the baby boom that came out of it brought a new market for the baby carriage. Soon, most everyone had a baby stroller except for the very poorest families who still could not afford one.
New safety features were also added around this time such as larger wheels, brakes, deeper prams, and lower, sturdier frames for a safer possible escape. Plastic and rubber were also becoming more commonly placed on tires and other buggy parts replacing the harder wooden and wicker framework. By 1950, a baby carriage was a necessity for all new parents.
The Modern Buggy: What a Way to Stroll
Today, the most common term used for the baby buggy is baby stroller. There is a plethora of strollers designed for all different purposes, terrains and activities. There a double, triple and even quad seating strollers!
The ideal modern stroller must at least be lightweight and easily maneuverable. Many functional features are now available in addition to the average fold away umbrella stroller that was once the innovation of it's day. The first umbrella stroller was designed by Owen Maclaren. Now additions like 5 point harness safety systems, retractable canopies, shock suspensions for a smoother ride, drink holders, safety bars and tires filled with air are added to each stroller to enhance design amongst the stiff competition.
Today's stroller brands also focus a lot of attention on the fashionable aspects of design. It is just as important for the stroller to look sleek as well as perform sleek. Fashion designers are often coupled with stroller manufacturers to create a completely sophisticated packaged product. Strollers come in every color of the rainbow, with polka dots or stripes or butterflies or all three adorning the covers. It seems that the artistic magnificence present in the first buggies is still as important today.
In 1980 the jogging stroller was invented by a man named Phil Baechler. Upon a run with his son tucked into the standard stroller of the day, he realized the difficulties of pushing and jogging simultaneously. So he set about creating a stroller capable of supporting joggers and at first used his own bicycle tires from his garage. After several attempts he finally found that the three-wheel stroller worked best and called it the “Baby Jogger.”
The innovation of the jogging stroller led to other design modifications such as strollers that attach to bicycles and mountain buggy strollers. It seems there are strollers for every type of parent, wherever they may live and however many children they may need to push.