Some things are better left in the past.
Take, for example, the wire-enclosed “baby cage” said to have been invented in 1922 as a way to suspend toddlers outside of apartment building windows as a means to give them “proper fresh air.”
Photographs and videos of the supposed invention have been shared on social media platforms for years and again went viral when a video was shared to X on Oct. 28, 2023. At the time of this publication, the clip had received more than 23.6 million views:
Baby cage invented to get fresh air for toddlers in 1922. pic.twitter.com/Nam2JRShqM
— Historic Vids (@historyinmemes) October 29, 2023
Turns out, this peculiar contraption was indeed real.
Snopes conducted a keyword search of “baby cage patent 1922” and found the invention was genuine. U.S. Patent 1448235 was described as a “Portable Baby Cage” and was filed on July 19, 1922, by Emma Read, a self-described resident of Spokane, Washington, at the time.
The patent was approved on March 13, 1923, and expired on the same day in 1940. It read, in part:
It is well known that a great many difficulties arise in raising and properly housing babies and small children in crowded cities, that is to say from the health viewpoint. This is especially true with reference to babies and young children, who at present are being raised in large apartments, as a result of not obtaining the proper fresh air, as well as being outdoors, for such air and exercise.
In crowded cities, where the houses are closely arranged, and in large apartments, there is no way for proper ventilation. Back and front yards are small, while those living in apartments have no facilities whatever, to permit the children and babies to receive proper fresh air from the outside.
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. This article of manufacture comprises a housing or cage, wherein the baby or young child together with proper toys may be placed. The baby is enabled to receive fresh air through the screen or wire fabric, and it will be noted that the baby has sufficient room or space for playing with toys…
The description goes on to explain that “suitable bed clothing” may also be arranged in the cage to allow for proper napping facilities made up with “suitable curtains.”
The figures below also accompanied the patent, which provided dimensions and construction information for the cage:
Snopes also found evidence of the device in a picture hosted by Getty Images taken by photographer Reg Speler on June 23, 1937, with a caption that described the device as a “wire cage attached to the outside of a high tenement block window.” The cages, the caption went on to say, were “distributed to members of the Chelsea Baby Club who have no gardens and live at the top of high buildings.”
Snopes has a history of investigating the origins of what appear to be bizarre inventions of the past, including a device that enabled its user to smoke an entire pack of 20 cigarettes at once and plastic cone-shaped face masks to supposedly protect people against snowstorms.