M2004.68.1 | Baby carriage
1938, 20th century
96.5 x 71 x 128 cm
Gift of Mrs. Bernard Lande
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Carriage (288)
Keys to History
In 1923 the provincial public health department published a booklet, Principes d'hygiène [Principles of Hygiene], aimed at promoting good family health habits. The booklet touted the virtues of cleanliness, for a healthy living environment, and of fresh air, for invigorating young bodies, especially for children who sometimes lived in unhealthy conditions. "To build up their resistance against tuberculosis and other diseases, infants need to sleep in fresh air and to play in fresh air." Baby carriages, or prams, like this one were essential equipment if infants were to be able to get lots of fresh air. Another publication, The Canadian Mother's Book, put out by the Government of Canada in 1930, urged women to wrap up their babies warmly and put them in a carriage next to an open window so that they would get plenty of fresh air. Walks outdoors were also recommended.
In the early years of the 20th century, baby carriages were designed so that the baby couldn't see the person pushing the carriage; starting in the 1930s, however, the design changed so that the child could see the familiar face of the parent or caregiver.
Throughout the 20th century, it was common to see carriages being pushed through Montreal's parks and squares so that babies could take in fresh air and sunshine. Baby carriages were an everyday sight in LaFontaine Park, in Mount Royal Park, on St. Helen's Island and, beginning in the 1930s, at the Botanical Gardens.
Carriages made in the 1920s had very high sides, to prevent babies from falling out, it was said. Ten years later, this design was considered to be unhealthy, as it reduced the amount of fresh air a baby would get.
Well-off families would hire nannies to take care of their children. Their duties included pushing their charges in baby carriages through the city's parks on daily walks.