A Little Fresh Air – An Odd Invention of the Early 20th Century
There have been a great many products invented over the years and if you have any imaginative inventors in your family, you may have come across some of their patents during your family history research, some successful, some maybe not so successful. Generally speaking, new inventions intend to provide improvements or benefits to a person’s life.
During the early 20th century, people began to move in larger numbers into the cities. Attracted by the promise of jobs and higher wages, cities became more crowded and large, open spaces became scarcer. Houses were built closer together and large apartment buildings filled the skyline to accommodate the increasing number of people. A concern for a child’s access to proper ventilation and fresh air began to permeate through the minds of parents, who worried about how limited access to the outdoors would impact the heath of their children.
Then in 1923, Emma Read of Spokane Washington was issued a patent by the United States Patent Office for a portable baby cage, an invention intended to help parents ensure their children receive the proper amount of fresh air while living in apartments with limited access to the outside.
Taking into account the troubles parents face in providing children with a healthy exposure to the outside world, she states, “it is the purpose of the present invention to provide an article of manufacture for babies and young children to be suspended upon the exterior of a building adjacent an open window, wherein the baby or young child may be placed. The article of manufacture comprises a housing or cage, wherein the baby or young child together with proper toys may be placed. The baby is enabled to receive fresh air through the screen or wire fabric, and it will be noted that the baby has sufficient room or space for playing with toys.”
Apparently the device was utilized by the public in some parts of England. Below is an early article from Popular Mechanics touting the baby cage as a popular apparatus for families lacking access to gardens.
Although well intended, the invention would raise some serious safety concerns for parents today. What do you think? Would you place your baby in one of these?