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.


Conveances and vehicles are fairly new play items for children. That is becaise most are mecahical and mechanical play items did not exist until after the Industrial Revolution (mid-18th century). Bikes, trikes, pedal cars, Irish mails, and others only appearedin the late 19th century. Bikes were originallt for adults, in part because contrapions like the penny-farthing were difficult to ride, actually dangerous. The saft bike that children could master only appeared at the end of the century (1890s). For the most part these conveyances became available for children (20th cerntury). This was not only because they only appeared in the late-19th century, but because they were expensive. Only a family in comfortable circumstances could afford to purchase one. This did not change until well into the 20th centurty as incomes behgan to increase, especially in America. And we bvegin to see all kinds of conveyances like pedal cars and trikes to appear to younger children. Not only were rising wahes generatung this, but costs were falling so all but very poor could afford them. There was one exception to this--the wagon. This was because the wagon could be of all wooden construction and the medchanics were so basic. We are not sure when the first waggon was built for children, but suspect that it dates to ancient times. You could not have a wooden bike, but until the 19th century, most wagons were all wooden construction. Now here we are talking about actual working vehicles. Toys based on conveyances like caghriots and boats date to ancient times, but were items only a small slice of society could afford.

Specific Conveyences

We note children enjoying a wide variety of convences/vehiches. They were not precisely toys, but actual working vehicles used by children, both in play and other activitities. They are most associated withn play and recreation, but has practical appications fpr older children and youth such as going to school and working with deliveriung newspapers, messages and groceries. The major conveyances were bikes andvtrikes with wagons a close second, at least for boys. Waggons were an item that boys of all ages could enjoy, even very young boys. Bikes were for bboys beginning about Age 6 years. And for many boys until they started thinking about cars, a bike was their primary npossession. Other important conveyances were scooters and pedal cars. There were many others of lessee importance.wiyh the advent of plastics there are many more options for youngrchildren and many are very low cost purchases. Prams were the only conveyance sprcifically for girls. It was ab item for moving about their baby dolls which of course most boys were uninterested. I seenm to recall girls playing with prams in America (mid-20th century). They seem to me much less common today.

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 centuries, but after Henry Ford introduced the Model-T low cost cart, became largely a recreational vehicle, increasingly used by children. We also notice these vehicles/conveyences 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.


There were definite gender variation as to conveyences. The earlies such conveyence was the wagon. And here it was primarily boys who wanted wagons. Girls after prams were inventged might want a pram, but far fewer girls wanted wagons. This was certainly the cade in my childhood (1940s-50s), but is birn out in the photographic record. This was also the case for bikes. They were initially primarily of interest to men and boys. This cahnged over time. In the early 20th century we see women and girls taking an interest. Thinjng back, many girls in America had bikes (1950s), but boys made far more use of their bikes. And were more adventuresom with the. The dirt bike phenomenon was virtually all boyy. This carried on into adulthood. Young women were far more likely to be riders on motorbikes than the driver. Trikes and pedal cars are more of a mixed bag. We note both boys and girls enjoying trikes. And we see girls on trikes after brothers have made th transition to two-wheelers. As for pedal cars, they were enjoyed by both boys and girls, bur as far as we can tell from the photographic record, we see far more boys playing with pedal cvars than girls.


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Created: November 21, 2001
Last updated: 1:41 AM 11/12/2019