Childrearing advice from the Kansas State Board of Health, 1900-1920

From the Kansas Memory project, a collection of childrearing public information posters issued by the Kansas State Board of Health from 1900 to 1920. I like this advice for how to give your kid fresh air: Don't put him in a wheelbarrow, you dope! Build him a cage!

Baby will be well and happy (via Retronaut)



    1. Or a rabbit hutch.  And fit it in next to the ones for the critters.  The kids can familiarize themselves with the livestock.

    2.  I am quite sure nursing though turkey wire was science’s way of subtly charring the state administration’s advice before presenting it to farmers. Birds have shoddy IgE policy and it shows.

  1. I actually had one of those as a child. but they got rid of it when I figured out how to open the lid (Wham! in the middle of the night).  I saw one recently at a vacation cabin, so the baby would not get bitten bugs or wander off into the woods.

    That little cart – it is maybe a “goat cart?”

    In the movie “Lincoln” there is a scene where his younger son is being pulled through the halls of the White House in a goat cart.

    1. I live near to a carriage museum. There’s a whole section there on little carts and wagons intended for children to hook up to goats, dogs, or other small animals. I gathered that they were mostly a play item, sort of like how nowadays people buy their kids those little battery powered cars.

  2. The urban version:

  3. It’s not putting the baby in a cage. It’s putting the entire world in a cage with the borders in close proximity to the baby.

  4. My grandmother had one of these for my dad. She called it the “lobster trap” and it doubled as a car seat (well, a car cage).

  5. It’s not a wheelbarrow, it’s simply a more primitive stroller.  Nothing wrong with the cages either; they provide both fresh air and safety, plus exposure to actual dirt, which is very important for a toddler’s developing immune system.

      1. Keep in mind the time period.  This would have been a healthy and safe place to put the child while the parents did housework, yardwork and gardening. Even toddlers need some alone time.

  6. Upscale homes built in the 20s and perhaps the 30s had an adult version of this: Sleeping porches. Upstairs balconies off of the bedroom, where folks would sleep on cots in the fresh night air.

    I suppose that in a time where gas lights and coal stoves were still common, indoor air could get pretty unhealthy.

    1. That had more to do with the lack of air conditioning.

      People in major cities would sleep on the fire escapes or in the public parks whenever the heat got oppressive.

      1. I read the book that is mentioned in this article: and one of the fascinating things about it is how many people died during this heat wave because they rolled off of roofs they were sleeping on. 

    2. Often a glassed in room above a car port and kitchen door, with the driveway continuing to a detached garage/carriage house/servants quarters at the rear of the property. 

  7. My father in law grew up on a cotton farm in North Carolina and had a cage like this when he was a baby.  I guess the parents put him there while they plowed the fields.

  8. Hey, I spent parts of the 70s in a pen made from chicken wire, nothing wrong with that. It saved me from running into the road (at least until i found out how to escape).

  9. Am I the only person here who thinks this poster, and the others at the source site, are actually really sensible and pertinent advice, applicable just as much in 2013 as in 1913?

    I particularly like the view of the ‘independence’ and ‘individuality’ of the baby that the Kansas board suggests: baby should sleep alone (not with parents), should have its own alone time, not be ‘shown off’, or made to perform for audiences, should not be overly handled just because it cries, etc.

    And the health suggestions, re eyes, food, fresh air, bathing, preventing sickness, and so on are likewise sound and sensible. 

        1. Oh, No doubt. But “we” seem to always look back at the fools that they were, instead of how they made it through; that was part of my kind-of joke, that we’ve made it this far as a civilization.

    1. I agree. A real cool book I read is Orphan Trains: It’s about the beginning of the adoption movement. So fascinating for it’s perspective on how child rearing has changed. Did you know that the kids that were most desired for adoption were teenage boys. Yes, because a teenage boy could actually help on the farm, whereas a baby, not so much. Yep, a cage for your toddler seems pretty progressive for the times.

Comments are closed.