There's nothing children like more than tooling around in their own set of wheels. Just as today's kids have their miniature cars (can you believe that that American-made classic, the Cozy Coupe, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year?), so the lucky children of affluent parents in 18th c. England and America had their own tiny carriages, too.
This splendid toy chariot, made by the carriage builder of Colonial Williamsburg, is a replica of an 18th c. riding toy. It features a padded leather seat and the same turning mechanism being used for full-size carriages. The bench-style seat is slung on leather straps for an easy, rocking motion that's similar to the springs used in coaches. The red-painted wheels were high-fashion, and on the side of the seat is painted a pineapple, the same kind of family emblem that would have decorated carriage doors. This little chariot would not have been pulled by an animal, but by other children, and the handle is covered with leather for a good grip.
To be sure, this was not a common plaything. Ordinary folk didn't own carriages or coaches, and their children didn't have miniature chariots, either. But for the fortunate children who did, riding toys like this must have been a blast.
Because the chariot is a replica and not an antique, it's been road-tested by countless children visiting CW. You can see the chips in the paint and the wear on the wheels; in fact, when we took this photograph, the chariot was in the stables, waiting for a seasonal tune-up. But by spring, I'm sure it was back out on the grass, ready for another year of pushing, pulling, and squabbling over who gets to ride and who has to pull. Somethings never do change, do they?