The Shocking Baby Cage From 1937

“But Mrs. Morris thinks her toddlers have a right to a place in the sun, so an out-of-this-world surprise awaits little Sally, who feels she’s been given the brush-off.” —Original television advertisement for the baby cage

In A Nutshell

They say that everything old is new again, but if there’s one thing destined to remain in the past it’s the 1937 baby cage. This disturbing contraption was designed to hang outside a window—even many stories up—so babies could crawl inside it and get fresh air. More astonishing than it being invented is the fact that it actually caught on and was used by a number of London mothers looking for a convenient way to get their little ones outdoors.

The Whole Bushel

In 1930s London, lawns were scarce, cities were crowded, and apparently taking babies for walks was a hassle. Enter: the baby cage. With this wire enclosure, parents didn’t need to leave the house to give their children a healthy dose of sunshine and fresh air. The only problem was that the cage was suspended precariously off the side of a building.

The cage was originally patented in 1922 by American Emma Read, yet for whatever reason, it didn’t attract much appeal in the United States. But in 1937, the Chelsea Baby Club distributed the device to its London members as a way for the mothers to easily get their babies outdoors, even if they didn’t have a backyard or garden. Instead of immediately shunning the thing as an infant death trap, many parents slapped the cage on their apartment windows and left their children’s fate in the care of a handful of bolts and screws. Not to be outdone by the Chelsea Baby Club, London’s East Poplar borough council offered to attach the cages outside its tenement windows as well.

Although the patent had designs for versions with roofs, the most commonly used cages were completely open to the elements and susceptible to bird droppings and whatever projectiles neighborhood kids wanted to throw. There was, however, plenty of room for toddlers to sleep and play with toys, and they did indeed get some fresh air.

In the patent, Read describes the purpose of the cage by stating, “It is well known that a great many difficulties rise in raising and properly housing babies and small children in crowded cities, that is to say from the health viewpoint. With these facts in view it is the purpose of the present invention to provide an article of manufacture for babies and young children to be suspended upon the exterior of a building adjacent an open window, wherein the baby or young child may be placed.”

The baby cage eventually fell out of fashion—probably around the 1940s, when even the most lackadaisical mothers knew a little fence wire wouldn’t protect their child from the Blitz. Unsurprisingly, the cage never made a comeback.

Show Me The Proof

The Baby Cage—original television advertisement (video)
Huffington Post: Baby Cage: The 1937 Parenting Solution For Londoners Short on Space
The Atlantic: Old, Weird Tech: Baby Cage Edition

  • inconspicuous detective

    the one time americans were more progressive and intellectual than their british counterparts: the baby cage. oh man, this is one to never tell the children about.

    also, i was gonna make a WWII reference comment, but the author here handled that well enough.

    • Nancy E Brewer

      Wow, the inventive human mind! Well, it looked kinda crowded, though, especially with brother in there, lol. Glad it didn’t catch on.

  • oouchan

    How scary is that shit! Let’s suspend our kid outside of a highrise instead of taking them outside….and hope for the best?

    Wow.

    • Joseph

      I think this idea is pretty good except for the part about hanging it outside. They make leashes for kids now, just tie them to a tree. The cage can be for the inside and they can even make them for different ages.

      • oouchan

        I had a leash for my kid…she was too independent for a stroller and didn’t want to be carried. So the leash gave her freedom and it made me feel less worried she would run off.

        • A leash for a kid? that’s some messed up shit right there

          • Esther Marie Ncpt

            you wouldn’t think of it as messed up shit if you were a mom pregnant and had to travel on the local bus system to go to dr appointments with energetic 2yr old twins with no help. These leashes which called harnesses NOT leashes have saved my children’s lives literally when one decided to go one direction and the other towards the street my pulling the harness of one stopped him from stepping in front of a car and its illogical for anyone to think it to be safe for a woman in her 6th month of pregnancy to carry a bulky double stroller on a public bus to many people are to ignorant and closed minded to see the safety issues and situations of others and are quick to judge wrongly THAT is messed up shit!

          • use common sense people

            Or since you knew you already had two kids that you clearly don’t have control off, how about not getting pregnant yet again when your only resort is to walk your kids like dogs… I guess you’re right “too many people are ignorant.”

          • Mikki

            Well she could spank her kids, but you seem like the type to have a problem with that as well. How about we make the world a better place and hope you don’t spawn. Having the name “use common sense people” doesn’t mean anything when you only use it as an excuse to be a dick. Some people have rambunctious children and others, which I’m sure you have (which, we pray isn’t true), don’t have personalities and just sit there, like their parents. It isn’t like walking your dog. Thank you, for proving her point though. “Too many people are ignorant.”

          • TheCatholicGirl .

            Like your mom. Not stopping before she had you.

          • Naadirah Coleman-Wright

            I was pregnant with a 3yr old and 2yr old. Never needed a harness or leash to control my kids in public. Sorry but those things are for dogs, not kids.

          • Rodger Gibbs

            Why? Do you care more about dogs than kids?

          • dont even

            I’ve read comments and it furiates me, I totally get you. Either the ones bashing you do NOT have children or have not take care of their children alone. I wanted my children close in age, so I did. My husband at that time worked off for periods at a time so errands were done by me and the babies. I have used a harness, because when toddlers start walking how many will hold your hand the whole time? And I happen to be pretty tall, 5’10, so can you imagine me all bent over to hold my toddlers hand so they can walk around? Doesn’t happen much, especially carrying a baby at the same time. It works and you’renot a bad parent. They’re just ignorant.

          • James Allen

            Don’t have so many kids problem solved

          • Tyler

            You have two kids you’re having trouble controlling and then you get pregnant again? What is the reason you’ve turned into a baby maker exactly?

          • TheCatholicGirl .

            Not as messed up as getting run over by a car.

          • Emmeaki

            It’s not like the leash is around the kid’s necks, for God’s sake! it usually attached to their arms so their parent can make sure they don’t run away.

          • Rodger Gibbs

            Would you rather lose your child?

  • Floyd Hamilton

    We didn’t have anything like this in Alcatraz….but still, a cage is a cage.

  • My mother already starts to panic when my children are out on the balcony. She’s so afraid they’ll plummet to their death … we live on the 2nd floor.

    • Hiba199

      Lol! Moms worry about literally everything:). I guess that’s the primary job of being a mom, Lisa would agree…

      • Lisa 39

        I agree, it is our job to worry about everything, its what we do. And it gets worse when we have grandkids, now we get to worry about them also. That’s OK tho, now that I’m single and go out and party my kids worry about me, mwahahaha 😉

      • disqus_fikVYdMc0U

        Small children often fall from balconies. Your kid’s next. Blame yourself when it happens because you don’t REALLY give a shxt about your kids. Not really. Darwin is laughing at you!!!

    • disqus_fikVYdMc0U

      Small children often fall from balconies. Your kid’s next. Ask Eric Clapton if you don’t believe me. Blame yourself when it happens because you don’t REALLY give a shit about your kids. Not really. Darwin is laughing at you.

  • I googled this contraption, expecting to find multiple reports of death and maiming, but nothing. Absolutely nothing. It may well be one of those things that looks worse than it really is.

    • It look much sturdier then the boxy window air conditioners used in some apartments, and a baby probably weight less.

  • Gretchen Swanson

    Just feast your eyes on the video! The British “fresh air” would qualify as child abuse on it’s own.