The Baby Carriage and its Appointments

I found this article from Babyhood published in the November 1888 issue which gives us a closer look at the Victorian baby carriage from the 1880’s and 1890’s. The article gives us details from how they are made, how comfortable they are, how to furnish a carriage to dangers like brass nails and arsenic poisoning.

WHEN we remember that Baby takes most of his exercise in his baby carriage, that he often remains in it as long as three hours at a time, and that he takes many naps while lying in it, it is certainly time for us to consider the question, “Is the carriage comfortable for the baby?” Most of us will answer, ” Why, certainly! How could it possibly be improved? Here are springs, and here is a seat, and soft upholstery, and a parasol to protect him from the sunlight – what more is needed?”

Apparently, nothing. But let us look more closely. Suppose we are purchasing a carriage for our own use; do we not carefully examine the way the carriage is hung upon its springs, whether the wheels are properly adjusted to each other, and, lastly, whether we can comfortably rest the back and stretch the limbs when taking a long ride – for a ride of three hours is a long one – do we not think of all these things? Or, suppose the carriage is to be purchased for the use of an invalid; do we not see that it is especially easy, and that there are enough soft cushions and easy springs to counteract even the slightest jolting? But do we think of these same things when we procure a carriage for a baby, say, three months of age?

Baby’s mother goes to the establishment and buys as handsome a one as her means will allow. And how luxurious it looks! The wicker basket, fresh and cool; the wheels with their shining nickel caps; the brightly polished springs; the plush upholstery, so softly tufted ; the carpeted floor ; and, crowning all, the graceful silken, lace trimmed sunshade–why, it really is a thing of beauty!
It is sent home, and Baby’s mother can hardly await the day when Baby will have his first airing. She hurries to make or purchase a small feather pillow, and fashions elaborate little slip-covers for it. She knows that this pillow belongs in every carriage, and her own judgment tells her that Baby is too young to sit upright and that the dear little head requires a pillow beneath it.

Baby’s First Ride.
At length the long-looked-for, sunshiny day arrives. Baby is decked out with cap and cloak, and Baby’s mamma eagerly superintends the placing of Baby in his carriage. Then for the first time she discovers that he cannot possibly lie down the way the carriage is arranged. After a moment’s thought out comes the seat, and nurse is sent up-stairs for an ordinary bed-pillow. It is too wide as well as too short for the carriage, but it is the only available thing, and it is forced into position. Accordingly, it either creases itself in the centre, forming two hard ridges running lengthwise, or it doubles itself under on each side, and the curve thus made is well adapted to roll the little form down against the side of the carriage. Then the small pillow with its stiffly starched cover, all tucks and embroidery, is placed in position, and Baby is ready for his airing. No, not quite yet, for Baby’s mamma finds that the lace coverlet will not keep him warm enough and that something more is required. Generally a shawl, more or less heavy, is wrapped around him, and, with the parasol and lace coverlet in proper place, the expedition starts.

After a while nurse returns and makes report that from the moment she crossed the street Baby began to cry, and that he did not stop until she was again within doors. “But no matter, ma’am, he’ll soon get used to it, for they all cry the first few times they go out; you know they have to get used to the carriage.”

Now, why must they “get used” to the carriage? Roll the carriage over an even floor, and you will see how much Baby will enjoy it, provided that he is lying comfortably. But he decidedly objects to the scratchy pillow-case and to the jolting over gutters and cobble-stones. These latter cannot be avoided, at least not in large cities, but the child may be so placed that the discomfort from the jolting will be greatly lessened.

The Proper Furnishings for a Carriage.
In the first place, instead of a pillow, which does not fit, and which in summer-time is extremely warm, make a hair mattress about three inches in height and tuft it. An upholsterer will make one for two or three dollars, but a clever woman can make one herself. The mattress must, however, be made in two sections, one about one-third and the other about two-thirds of the length of the carriage. It is a good plan to sew a strip of oil-silk on one side of the larger section to prevent the hair from becoming moist. Cover this with a napkin before placing the child upon it. Make simple cambric or muslin pillow-slips for the small feather pillow, with merely an edge of embroidery. The writer has often seen the full pattern of the tucks and embroidery stamped upon the Baby’s tender cheek.

The reason for dividing the mattress is so obvious it is hardly necessary to explain it. When both sections are in position the young infant rests at full length and in comfort. When old enough to sit up the smaller section can be withdrawn; and even at eight months an ordinary, healthy baby can sit as easily as a child of two years, and, unless he is wet, he will make no attempt to shove himself forward; nor will he slip down, as children so young invariably do, when seated upon a feather pillow, or upon the usual hard seat of the carriage. If the child should fall into a doze while in his carriage, the second section can be easily slipped into position and the child can sleep as comfortably as when lying in his bed.

I have found that the most practical covering for the child is one of the little, tufted cheese-cloth quilts mentioned in earlier columns of Babyhood, which are at the same time light and warm and inexpensive. In winter an extra blanket, and hot bricks in the bottom of the carriage, provide sufficient warmth for the little occupant.

The upholstery of the carriage is frequently tacked into place by ornamental (?) brassheaded nails. By all means have these removed before Baby is a year old, and have the binding gimp glued down. By that time Baby’s idle fingers will seek occupation, and, attracted by their burnished heads, he will patiently work until he extracts them, and, as a matter of course, they are immediately placed in his mouth. My own little daughter was frequently detected doing this, until I had all the nails removed.

A Single Carriage for Two Occupants
In case it becomes necessary to place two little occupants in a carriage built for one, have the older – not the younger, as is generally the case – placed at the foot of the carriage. In the first place, the nurse can see him better, and the older child is always the one who first gets into mischief; in the second place, a strong board can be cut the size of the pillow (which it will be necessary to place behind his back), and slipped into the pillow-case – this will give the back all the support required, and yet remain unseen; and, thirdly, the younger one can rest much more comfortably, and be better protected from the sun if seated in the upper part of the carriage.

Necessary Extras.
It would be well to make a bag of silesia large enough to contain the following articles: a few clean napkins, a pair of stockings in case a change is necessary, a small china – not metal – drinking-cup, and an extra wrap in case of a sudden change in the weather. One cannot too frequently impress upon the mind of the nurse the fact that it is apt to be injurious to the child to drink from a public cup in a public place. The mother had better see for herself that this bag always contains these articles, that it is always in the carriage, and that the nurse does not use it as a receptacle for wet or soiled napkins.

The Parasol.
So much for the carriage itself; and now we will take a look at the parasol, which sometimes is an unsuspected source of mischief. A lady of my acquaintance brought her little girl, three months old, to her doctor to have its eyes examined, complaining that whenever the child had been out for a while its eyes would become so badly inflamed that for an inch around the eyelids a large red circle could be distinctly traced, and the eyeball itself be blood-shot. The doctor examined the eyes, and replied that he could find nothing the matter with them, but suggested that the nurse might have been careless and allowed the rays of the sun to penetrate beneath the sides of the parasol when the child lay in the carriage, and advised the mother to accompany the nurse and child on the next day, and to note whether the trouble again occurred. She returned to his office and stated that she had followed his advice, had been extremely careful, and yet when she returned home the inflammation was again apparent and as bad as ever. He advised a shade for the eyes; but the lady assured him it would not only be uncomfortably warm but unnecessary, for the reason that its eyes could well bear the light, giving as proof of the assertion that the child could be carried out by the nurse, or be taken for a ride in the family carriage, and the inflammation would not appear. The doctor ordered a cooling wash, and the lady left his office. A few days later, happening to pass the child in the street, the puzzled doctor quickly discovered the cause of the inflammation. The parasol that was to protect the child’s eyes from the sun was pure white! The glare that came through it when the sunlight struck it was fairly blinding, and beneath this lay the poor baby, flat on its back, its eyes blinking and watering. The doctor’s next prescription was given on the spot; he merely ordered a dark green lining for the white parasol. It is needless to say that the second prescription made the first one unnecessary and completely cured the child.

The dealer will tell the purchaser that a white or ecru parasol is the “latest” style, but, if you value your baby’s eyesight, do not take one without ordering a dark lining for it.
A new slide has been invented for attaching the parasol to the rod, which is very practical. Where the parasol-top passes over the rod, to be held fast by a screw, there is a little wheel which turns the parasol at any angle, so that the most slanting rays can never penetrate beneath it.

Formerly the rod and parasol, in order to shut out the rays of the early morning and evening sun, had to be so far lowered that all air was excluded, and Baby would often give noisy vent to his displeasure at having the range of his vision thus completely cut off. In purchasing the lace cover for the parasol, see that the lace does not hang down more than an inch below the edge. When once the child is seven or eight months old, and begins to observe what wonderful things surround him, a lace curtain hanging before his eyes and hiding all the pretty things from his sight, no matter in what direction he may turn, is a source of annoyance and may make him cross. And then, again, the constant blowing to and fro of the lace tempts the little fingers to grasp it, and occasionally they are successful. Then they tug and pull until the delicate fabric yields to the persistent efforts, and the baby carries the remnant in triumph to his mouth, the usual repository for all his possessions.
Parasol-Cover and Afghan.
And now a hint or two as regards the making of the lace parasol-cover and afghan, and I have finished.

For the parasol cover buy the lace netting or “all-over” lace which comes by the yard. Let the salesman cut for you a perfect square – i.e., the length equal to the width. Now cut out of paper a perfect circle, as many inches in diameter as the width of your lace. Lay it upon the lace and cut, following your pattern carefully. Make a very small hole in the centre. Open your parasol, and, slipping the top of it through the hole, let the lace rest upon it, and you will see that it is a perfect fit, except that it will be too short. Edge it with a flounce of lace as deep as the uncovered space will require, but do not let it hang more than an inch below the edge of the umbrella itself. The lace flounce need only be sewn on full enough not to pucker. The ordinary size parasol requires three-and-a-half yards. The opening at the top may be neatly finished with a ribbon bow or a ruffle of narrow lace edging.

The afghan may be made of the same material, requiring to be edged with lace on three sides only. It is well not to have this edge too deep, or it may become entangled in the wheels and thus be torn and soiled. I have found that the lining best adapted to a lace afghan is the ordinary quilted satin lining. It is inexpensive and needs only to be finished on the under-side with silesia. It does not give extra warmth, as it rests upon the carriage itself, not upon the child ; and, being firm, it holds the lace taut ant even. Fasten tapes at the upper and lower corners on the under-side, and have them long enough to be drawn through the wickerwork and tied together. This method of holding the afghan in place will be found preferable to the other way of pinning down with large-size safety-pins, which are apt to break the willow and to tear the upholstery.

Poisonous Perambulators.
In conclusion I would call attention to a danger which is little suspected, but nevertheless which is one experience has shown to exist, and, therefore, against which the parents of a family would do well to be on their guard. A case is recorded by the British Medical Journal of a child, aged four months, who on its return, after being out under a hot sun, was seized with sickness and vomiting, the vomited matter being a green-colored fluid. From inquiries made by the medical man it was elicited that the child had been seen to suck a green strap of the perambulator, and the true cause of the mischief was at once suspected – namely, arsenic poisoning. An analytical examination of the strap confirmed this view, arsenic being found to be present in great abundance.