Outdoor Play and Games: Conveyances and Vehicles

Figure 1.--Here we see German boys with scooters in the 1920s. The boys also look to be playing marbles on the mosaic sidewalk. This my have been a move scene, but we are not sure.

A variety of convetances and mnechanical devices were vehicles that were a bit more than toys. The goat or dog cart was very popular in the 19th century. As the 20th century appraoched the most popular vehicle was the bicycle. Because of the expense it was first mostly for adults. Inventors made it safer, but it ws the model-T Ford and relativly inexpensive cars that made the bike into a child's vehicle. There were eventually tricycles and peddal cars for younger children. But who can forget the little red wagon which became an integal part of American childhood. Scooters were another popular childhood vehicle.


Specific Convetences

We note children enjoying a wide variety of convences/vehiches. They were not precisely toys, but actual vehicles used by children, both in play and other activitities.


We have noted some rich children when very young riding in baskets on horses. They were taken for outings well bundled up by their nurses.


Bicycling became a popular activity in the 19th century and by the later part of the century were increasingly common for children, particularly boys. Bikes were originally developed for adults, but by the late-19th century versions appeared for children. Boys in particular liked to be photographed with their bikes. Thus many photographs exist of boys in casual clothes with their bikes. Early photographs, however, are staged shots, some times with the boys wearing their sunday best suits.


The cart was very popular in the 19th century. Propulsion varied. Richer chilren might have a pony cart. Afluent childrn might have a goat or dog cart. Because they were commonly pulled by goat, they were often called billycarts. They were quite popular and as goats never pulled them at any speed, were quite safe even for younger children. The childrn involved almost by definition were well to do, or lived in rural areas. These were very common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but we see them less commonly after World War II.

Kiddie cars/Peddal Cars

Kiddie or peddal cars appeared almost as soon as automobiles. Boys like their fathers fell in love with the automobile. These cars began to appear in the 1890s and the clothes boys wore in the available images are a good reflection on the clothing styles and fashion conventions of the day. A good example of an early kiddie car is the one photographed with an American boy, Wayne Curtis, about 1905.

Minature Cars

For the very rich there were actual miniasture automobiles with real motors. We note some portraits of boys at the time with these real, functioning cars. A good example is a very rich Canadian boy in 1910.

Pogo Sticks

I'm unsure just where to archive the pogo-stick. For want of a better palce I will archive it here. It was a vehicle of sorts. I vaguely remember pogo-sticks from the 1940s. I never had one, but I remember seeing one as a little boy in Ameica. I'm not sure how popular they were. A British reader tell us that they were popular in Briatin for a short time. I'm nor sure if they appeared elsewhere.

Push Cars/Irish Mails

We notice American boys playing with push cars in the early 20th century. We use the term "ush cars", I think at the time these vehicles were popular, the term "Irizh Mails" was more widely used. Sears offered various models in its 1919 catalog. Some were called Irish Mails, apparenly because of the use of a similar vehicle on the Iriah railroads which delivered the mail. . Hopefully a HBC reader will know more. They seem to have been popular for a time (1900s-10s). We have very few photographs showing children with them. Of course there are dangers in making popularity judgements on the basis of the available photographic record, but we do believe the relative rarity of images is a strong indicator that they were not very popular. We have noted, however. a few photographs. One such photograph is an American father and son, probably in the 1910s. We note an American boy in 1912.


We have little information about scooters at this time. We have not noted them before World war I (1914-18), but have no detailed informstion at this time. They were mostly for younger children at the age that they were just beginning to ride bikes, perhaps children that did not have bikes yet. They were also cheaper than bikes. We begin noticing them in the 1920s. I recall them as a boy in America during the 1940s. Scooters appear to have past out of favor in the early 1950s. We do not recall seeing them in the 1960s. We do notice sleeker models appearing about 2000. We do not know what countries they were popular in. We see scooters advertized in French catalogs. Here we see them in Germany beginning in the 1920s (figure 1). We note quite a few German boys with scooters. We see another German boy with a scooter, probably in the 1950s. Interesting there was a revival of scooters in the late 1990s, but this was more of a scooter for teenagers and young adults. We are not sure what the foreign language terms were.


The technology and development of the tricycle is closely related to the bicycle. Bikes were originally developed for adults. The early bicycles were difficult to ride and not considered suitable for women or children. They were also much to expensive for the average child. As a result tricycles were developed, initially for the ladies. There were different types of tikes, but the ones with the pedal drive arragemeng became the standard type. Soon they became popular for children. Interestingly, they appear to have been considered only suitable for boys at first. Photoggraphs of girls on early trikes are very rare. Also initially quite old boys rode them, much older boys than is the case today.


But who can forget the little red wagon which became an integal part of American childhood. I'm not sure when wagons became so popular for boys--and when red became the most popular color. Every child growing up in America wanted their own little red wagon. Most children got them. We are not sure how cmmon they were in other countries. Australian boys seem to have had little red wagons. American Scouts remember the little red wagon they had s a boy--and have a song for it. The most famous American wagons were made by the Radio Flyer company. A fim was even made enbtitled The Radio Flyer. The company till makes vehicles for children--now many plastic items of various descriptions.

Country Trends

The coneyences ans vehicles used by children were comonly used by children in many different countries. There were differences from country to country as to the convehences that were popular. These convetences were popular with most kids. Here a major factor was cost and affordability. The conveyences were popular in America and many parents could afford them for their children. Bikes were initially both a recreational and a utilitarian vehicle in the late-19th and early-20th century, but fter Henry Ford introduced the Model-T low cost cart, became largely a recreational vehicle, increasingly used by children. We also notice these vehickes/convehences in many European countries. Bikes were developed in Europe, but by the time they developed into reliable vehicles were not as common as in America. Many men owned them to get to work, but they were less common for children. Scooters were somewhat more common. We are developing pages for Englnd, France, Italy, and Germany. These vehicles of course existed in other countries. This depended in lsrge measure on the gebneral economic affluence of the country.



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Created: November 21, 2001
Last updated: 3:03 AM 2/6/2012