11 Terrifying Childcare Inventions From The Early 20th Century

UV baby branding: December 1938

Popular Science archives

Enjoy the motorized hanging cradle, the baby gas mask, the UV-ray baby branding prod, and more “infant-friendly” gadgets from the Popular Science archives.

Click to launch the photo gallery.

There are certain areas of expertise that came naturally to us over the years: cars, space, aviation, and computers, to name a few. During the first half of the past century, we even provided practical features for scientifically-minded housewives. But children and babies? Not so much. Hence this compilation of the most dubious child-rearing technologies from the pages of Popular Science.

We’ll be honest: As fond as we are of the crackpot inventions that have popped up on our pages over the years, we’re not in the least bit surprised that most of the devices in this gallery never took off. At least half of them were made for the benefit of adults, rather than for infants, so in retrospect they look comically misguided. A motorized baby hammock suspended by wooden beams, for instance, looks more like a swinging jail cell than a cradle, while a UV lamp used for branding newborns in the hospital probably drew inspiration from a cattle prod. Then there’s the baby can, literally a perforated can with a lid for storing babies on passenger trains.

At the same time, we meant well with the hooded baby gas masks and the baby sleeping porch, a compartment you could install outside the window (and 100 feet above ground) to give your baby fresh air.

Creeped out yet? Browse through our gallery to see these inventions in detail (and to thank your lucky stars that none of them fell in your mother’s hands).


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