With July 4th just around the corner, we’ve been brushing up on our history— nursery history that is. Turns out the men who signed the Declaration of Independence were probably the first generation of babies to sleep in modern day bedrooms in cribs not that much different than the ones we have today. They came of age just as rooms dedicated solely for sleeping were gaining popularity— before the 17th century every room was a bedroom, with beds functioning as couches during the daytime. Our first presidents probably slept in wooden cradles like this one, housed in the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Massachusetts. The prominent rockers and wooden hoods were the hallmarks of early colonial cribs.
Another historic American baby bed is the wicker Peregrine White cradle. Peregrine White was born on board the Mayflower in 1620, the first child born to the Pilgrims. His parents brought the cradle with them from Holland in anticipation of his birth. Its woven style was typical of Dutch cradle designs of the time and similar beds can be seen in famous Dutch paintings like this one by Pieter De Hooch.
Before these elaborate cradle styles appeared, the close cousins of our modern day cribs, most cradles were made from split logs with a space hollowed out for baby to sleep in. Or, for families with slightly more resources, a plain wooden box was constructed, sometimes mounted on rockers. That remained the standard for centuries. While ornately decorated, this medieval crib that once housed King Henry V is still your run of the mill box on a stand if you ignore the carved birds.
Since the 1970s there has been much progress in terms of safety and crib design. While you wouldn’t want to put your precious bundle to sleep in one of these antiques, it might be fun to hang photos like these in the nursery or ask the previous generation about the baby rooms of their childhood. Who knows what cribs will look like next century!