A Brief History of the Stroller
Chances are as you push your baby down the street in that UPPAbaby G-Luxe or are jogging around the park with a Baby Trend Expedition, you aren't thinking about how that stroller came to be. Turns out there's a lot of history that launched the creation of the Phil & Ted's double stroller, and it all started with an English architect in the 1700s.
The First Baby Carriage
In 1733 William Kent invented the baby carriage for the Duke of Devonshire, but unlike the strollers of today this one was meant to be pulled by a pony or goat. This elaborately-decorated device looked like a shell basket and had wheels low to the ground. Eventually this baby transport design changed and grew, turning out models made of wood and wicker. These early strollers garnered the name perambulator, or pram for short.
Popularizing the Pram
Sometimes it takes royalty to launch a product, and when Queen Victoria exalted the baby carriage by buying three from the Hitchings Baby Store in 1840, suddenly everyone needed to have one. In fact, during that time a lot of the prams were named after the royals, such as Princess and Duchess. Each device proved lavish, made out of wood and often sported shiny brass fixtures. They were more for style than practicability, but as innovation on the stroller continued it got more and more easy to use. Though it wasn't until the 1920s when the lower and middle class started buying and appreciating the baby carriage as well. We bet these people were also some of the first to start getting used strollers!
Baby Looks Out To the World
The first prams were more of a basket, making it easy for moms and nurses to look into the vessel and see the tiny pink face as they walked around. The first pram with a forward-facing, reversible bassinet wasn't invented until 1889, a revelation by William H. Richardson that not only allowed the child to peer at the world, but also included special wheels that turned separately to make steering the device easier.
Strollers Lighten Up
Imagine trying to lug one of those primitive strollers up and down stairs or over a threshold. They were beasts, and it wasn't until 1965 when someone decided to make a lighter version. Enter Owen Maclaren, an English engineer who used aircraft aluminum to make the stroller frame, hence changing the weight of all future devices. This was to become the first umbrella stroller, probably the only baby transport device that has remained roughly the same since then. He also founded Maclaren, a British company that still makes some of the best buggies around. Of course there certainly are some hefty strollers still being made, but some, like the Mountain Buggy Nano, are so light you can lift with one hand.
Though it may feel like the jogging stroller has been around for a long time, this fixture on the trails didn't come into fruition until 1983. Invented by Phil Baechler as a way to run with his infant son in tow, the first iteration of this stroller was built from a mess of metal tubes, stroller and bike parts. At first Beachler, a former newspaper man, tried to make a two-wheeled jogger, but eventually he fit that third wheel in and voila! The jogging stroller was born as well as his still-popular-today company, Baby Jogger. Now you can get single and double strollers and run like the wind while your little ones ride snuggly along.
It may surprise you to learn the high-end strollers that dominate the American market now actually gained popularity in Europe first. The Dutch-made Bugaboo started producing carriages in 1999 and in 2001 the company's Frog was one of the first strollers to really gain traction in Europe. Thanks to an American mom named Kari Boiler, the Bugaboo entered the stroller market in the States.However, it wasn't until the stroller made an appearance on Sex in the City in 2002 that the device really became an icon, it's debut also thanks to Boiler who marketed the heck out of the Bugaboo. Within two years other companies emerged and started pushing luxury strollers as well. The Bugaboo still rocks the stroller world, but so does the chic UPPAbaby line, Orbit Baby, Maclaren and Baby Trend, to name a few. Just three years ago the industry nearly topped $750-million, and as strollers get better, lighter and more stylish, interest maintains. You can find these devices new in boutiques, buy used strollers on consignment, and see them gracing the sidewalks in cities everywhere.
So Many Strollers
With so many types of new and used strollers now available-joggers, umbrella, bassinets, and ultra lightweight, to name a few-there's something for everyone. If you want a solid stroller that's not too expensive, look at Graco's line of goods. For something that goes from newborn to toddler, many strollers from the UPPAbaby line have bassinets that can fit into the frame. If you want an easy, "throw in the car" umbrella, try the inexpensive and simple Cosco version. Try them out and find the best one for your family.
You don't have to buy a new stroller either, plenty of high-end models of UPPAbaby, Joovey and BOB can be found on consignment or at used baby gear shops such as Good Buy Gear. There you can find quality used strollers, second hand goods, gear and accessories, for a fraction of the cost, which means more money in your pocket for all those other things kids need.