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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE PIES

Learning to Walk: 1905

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Learning to Walk: 1905

A joyful baby takes a spin in a walker in 1905. View full size.

 

Walker

Note the tray, for toys, on the baby's left. (Which is probably the front, the kid has the walker twisted around.) It's almost the exact same design of a modern walker, except this one is made of wood and iron. Guess some things can't be improved on.

World War I

Let's do the math. This baby boy can't be more than a year old so let's set his birth date as 1904. The United States entered World War I in 1917 (your Canadian neighbours had been in for three years already). The young man would have been 13 years old, and even in those days Americans didn't go to war at 13. Going further, when the United States entered World War II at the very end of 1941, our young walker would have been 37, and most likely married with children, which would have been enough to exempt him from the draft (that was enough to keep his contemporary John Wayne out of the army). Now he could have joined up, either before the war as a reservist or after the war started, but the point is that he wouldn't have been forced into the army, at least not from the beginning. (If the baby's a little girl, she'd have had the vote by the time she turned 21 in 1925, but she could have been a "flapper".)

Walker

You can see the bottom of the rails to the right. This makes a lot of sense.

I went through a book of photos from this era this morning, and could not find any indoor photos of moving subjects taken with natural light. A porch explains it.

Cute kid too. I wonder what happened to him. Did he go on to fight in WWI? (I presume it's a boy, I suppose this could be a girl. Did she grow up to be a suffragette?)

Built to last!

I'd take that "iron contraption" over any of the new cheap plastic ones available today. They made things to last back then! If you found that in an attic, it may need some sanding and repainting, but I'd bet it would still work just as good as the day it was made.

Lighting

It looks like the picture was taken on an outdoor porch of some kind.

It's New!

Think of 20-somethings seeing that photo and saying that baby walkers were really invented in the 1980s!

Yellow Kid

He bears a passing resemblance to R.F. Outcault's "Yellow Kid". Welcome to Hogan's Alley.

Lighting

I would have expected an indoor photo from 1905 to have been taken with some kind of flash; the lenses and film available were too slow to reliably catch a moving subject like this indoors. However, the shadows here indicate a light source to the upper right, probably windows just out of the frame. Surprising.

Happy

well, after so many photos about child labor and the uglies of life (even if through beautiful photos) it's nice to see a genuinely happy moment involving a child.

It put a smile on my face.

A father's comment

As the father of two-and-a-half-year-old twins, I can only say: Thank God for plastic!

I can't imagine the damage my son and daughter would produce if they were wheeling around in an iron contraption when they were learning to walk...

 
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