The baby carriage was invented in 1733 by English architect William Kent. It was designed for the 3rd Duke of Devonshire’s children and was basically a child’s version of a horse-drawn carriage. The invention would become popular with upper-class families.
With the original design, the baby or child was seated on a shell-shaped basket atop a wheeled carriage. The baby carriage was lower to the ground and smaller, allowing it to be pulled by a goat, dog or small pony. It had spring suspension for comfort.
By the mid-1800s, later designs substituted handles for parents or nannies to pull the carriage rather than using an animal to carry it. It was typical for these to be forward-facing, like many baby strollers in modern times. The child’s view, however, would be of the rear end of the person doing the pulling.
Toy manufacturer Benjamin Potter Crandall marketed the first baby carriages manufactured in America in the 1830s. His son Jesse Armour Crandall received patents for many improvements that included a brake, a folding model and parasols to shade the child. He also sold doll carriages.
American Charles Burton invented the push design for the baby carriage in 1848. Now parents didn’t have to be draft animals anymore and instead can push the forward-facing carriage from behind. The carriage was still shaped like a shell. It wasn’t popular in the United States, but he was able to patent it in England as a perambulator, which would thereafter be called the pram.
African American inventor William H. Richardson patented an improvement to the baby carriage in the United States on June 18, 1889. It is U.S. patent number 405,600. His design ditched the shell shape for a basket-shaped carriage that was more symmetrical. The bassinet could be positioned to face either out or in and rotated on a central joint.
A limiting device kept it from being rotated more than 90 degrees. The wheels also moved independently, which made it more maneuverable. Now a parent or nanny could have the child face them or face away from them, whichever they preferred, and change it at will.
The use of prams or baby carriages became widespread among all economic classes by the 1900s. They were even given to poor mothers by charitable institutions. Improvements were made in their construction and safety. Going for a stroll with a child was believed to have benefits by providing light and fresh air.