Sunday 5 September 2010


The pram is a mid-Victorian invention:

"... then came the nursemaid with what we called the "push-along" : the word perambulator had not then been heard : bearing a couple of smaller children, while old Nurse staggered after us bearing the "long-clothes, the name of derision we always gave to the latest arrival. The "push-along " was a most uncomfortable vehicle, and consisted of a narrow seat covered with American leather or some such substance; it had a wheel on each side and one very small one in front, and the tall handle at the back was used to push the miserable thing. There were no cee-springs, no india-rubber tyres, but all the same we regarded the "push-along" as some folks do their motors nowadays, and we had great joy when the autumn came, for new shell gravel was laid down then, and we took turns to drive the vehicle over the beautiful shells."

Mrs. Panton, Leaves from a Life, 1906 [about the 1850s]

and I find it satisfying to know that it has always been considered a nuisance. Worried about 'yummy-mummies' banging their Bugaboos and Gracos into your ankles? Well, step back in time to the 1850s:

Somebody else asks seriously, "Do you double up your perambulators?" No sir; but last Sunday morning, as I was walking quietly to church, I was doubled up by a perambulator in a most shameful and scandalous manner. Whether the fat matron who propelled the abominable machine was an etymologist, and imagined that her perambulator was to walk clean through me, I don't know but she drove the front-wheel right between my legs, and I woke suddenly out of a reverie to find myself sprawling over a couple of gigantic babies. It was a providence that the twins were fat, fleshy, and soft, and that I escaped with a slight abrasion of the forehead. There used to be a law against driving wheel-carriages upon the trottoirs ; I should like to know when it was repealed, or, if it never was repealed, why it is not put in force ? Not a day of my life passes now but I am perambulated into the kennel or into an open shop, to avoid being upset.

Charles Manby Smith, The Little World of London, 1857
Even better, see this disgruntled reader:


Sir, - I beg leave t draw the attention of the public (I was about to say police) to one of the now existing nuisances. It is that of perambulators. You cannot walk along without meeting several of those novel vehicles; and, as their name implies, they "walk through" the foot-passenger; for you must either go fairly off the pavement or suffer the more pleasant sensation of having your corns (if you are accompanied by those agreeables) run over.
    If it were a truck of apples, instead of children, the police would interfere. Why not in this?
    I remain yours respectfully,

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