Sunday, April 11, 2010

What Every 18th c. Aristocratic Child Is Whining For This Spring

Sunday, April 11, 2010
Susan reports:

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?

14 comments:

nightsmusic said...

Now that is a cool little carriage! I'd have felt like a princess in one of those.

Interesting how things change yet remain the same. We have a one-child 1957 miniature pedal car that is an exact replica except for the engine of course, of a 1957 Thunderbird. There were only about 1500 made. It was my husband's when he was too small to yet reach the pedals and is now patiently awaiting restoration.

Personally, I prefer the carriage you've shown, but no matter the era, they are still fun for kids. Then and now.

Michelle Moran said...

Great post - and how fantastic that it's lasted for so many years!

Le Loup said...

Lovely, I made a plainer version to pull my first son around in when I was collecting firewood and could not leave him alone.
This though is far superior to the one I made, I love it.
Regards.

Miss Kirsten said...

Oh that's too cool! My brothers and I would have been all over a go-kart like that.

Elizabeth said...

I really enjoy your blog.

You have been awarded the Ancestor Approved award for your great work on your genealogy blog! Please stop by my blog and pick up the award (by right clicking on it and saving it to a .jpg, or just drag it onto the desktop if you're on a Mac) and then post the below information with the picture, using the format I used when receiving it.

The Ancestor Approved Award asks that the recipient list ten things you have learned about any of your ancestors that has surprised, humbled, or enlightened you and pass the award along to ten other bloggers who you feel are doing their ancestors proud. Here are the 10 things I have learned from my ancestors.

http://elizabethsaunders.blogspot.com/

Catherine Delors said...

A foreshadowing of Ferrari yellow? Is the original still around?

Susan Holloway Scott said...

I don't know if this is a replica of an existing antique, or if it was built from old plans and drawings. Because of their size and wear and tear, two hundred year old carriages and coaches are rare, and I'd guess that something as unusual as this children's chariot would be rarer still. I'll have to contact the experts at CW and find out!

Catherine, that golden yellow is a fav 18th c. color for carriages and woodwork in general. I'm sure that's why Ferrari copied it. *g*

Elizabeth, many thanks for your kind words for the TNHG! Alas, we're not really a genealogy blog - we wander all over the place - so I'm afraid we'll have to decline your generous award. But we do appreciate the honor, and hope we'll continue to amuse you. :)

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

What a great carriage! I have a picture on my website http://www.lesleyannemcleod.com/rw_childhood.html (near bottom of the page) of an Austrian 'Kinderphaeton' of 1811 designed to be pulled by sheep, and a contemporary illustration of something called a 'curricle dog-cart'. They all look more fun than the motorized cars for children today!

Vanessa Kelly said...

I want one!!

Elizabeth said...

I wasn't sure if you would accept the Ancestor Approved award because of your format, so I understand.

Your blog does help us learn more about how our ancestors lived, plus it's fun!

Michael Robinson said...

The cart in this Gillray of 1797 making fun of the Duke of Clarence could almost be the model for the Williamsburg vehicle, certainly for the colors they have chosen:

La promenade en famille-a sketch from life
http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_object_image.aspx?objectId=1634512&partId=1&searchText=Gillray+Children&fromADBC=ad&toADBC=ad&orig=%2fresearch%2fsearch_the_collection_database.aspx&numPages=10&currentPage=2&asset_id=141753

A rootdigger said...

I saw a car something like that on some little cards of old cars at an antique store. Naturally it had four wheels, but the body was basically like that.
I love your blog.

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thank you for the link, Lesley-Anne. While all these historical children look to be quite decorous with their carts, I just think of all the cheerful, fun-time mayhem my kids committed in wagons, crashing them down hills with too many occupants, including the occasional hapless pet or two, too. :)

Elizabeth, thank you for understanding -- and I'm glad you do enjoy the blog.

A Rootdigger -- my guess is that as long as their have been wagons, carriages, and carts for big people, that lucky little people had their versions, too. And thanks for the kind words for the blog. :)

Susan Holloway Scott said...

Many thanks for the great link, Michael! You're right, that does look a great deal like the same "chariot." A little later and more refined, with better springs, but definitely the same color scheme. And trust Gillray (always!) to answer the question of who pulls the cart:not slave children, but the Duke of Clarence, of course. Love the chamber pot beneath the crown painted on the side, too (the CW version is a plain old pineapple.)

Because Blooger cut off your link, here it is as a tinyurl: http://tinyurl.com/yd8aqyk

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