A Vintage Hesba

A correspondent sent this photo of a recently-acquired pushchair:

(Long-time blog readers will recall that we blur the faces of children here, and also remove any obvious identifying marks on photos, if clumsily.)

She writes:

i cant find anything on and i wanted to know some info on it. i found it at the dump just sitting there and i loved it so i brought it home.

Although I immediately suspected that this pushchair was from the 1970s, I’m not as familiar with  this particular manufacturer as I am with others, so I checked with my European friend, who knows far more about Continental prams, and the 1970s era, in particular, than I do.  She confirms that this is a late 1970s or early 1980s stroller, and mentions that the 1970s interior was most likely plastic, but, likely, will be woven fabric in a 1980s model.

Keep in mind, though, that pushchairs manufactured in the late 1970s were often still sold as new stock in the 1980s; models did not necessarily change every year as automobiles did, for example, in the USA.

Other distinctive clues to this stroller’s age include the frame, which is painted to coordinate with the color of the seat, and the plastic wheels, which look spoked, but are actually molded, as well as color-coordinated.  The panorama hood is most often seen on Gesslein prams of this era, though Gessleins typically had plates that could be snapped in place to make the windows opaque.

Our correspondent notes that this is a “Hesba” pushchair.  Hesba is a German pram manufacturer, and they still make prams rather like the one above.  Here’s a current model, a Hesba Condor Coupé:

Hesba’s modern models have gone back to the wire wheels typically seen before the 1970s era, as well as larger tires.  The frame is a bit sturdier, and a bit fancier, but the suspension system is quite similar, as are the brakes.  Today’s models have  more padding and more accessories, but the essential idea is much the same.  It’s easy to see the shadow of the vintage model in this contemporary one.  The only thing that’s been lost is that marvelous viewing window!

Congratulations to our correspondent for having rescued this treasure from — of all places — a dump!  It’s wonderful to see that it is newly loved and appreciated, just when it might have been lost forever.

The Mailbag: A Post-War Thayer

A visitor writes:

I found this orphan at a yard sale. As you can tell, I’m drawn to things nobody else wants. All I know about it is it’s old and it’s cool. Can you tell me what period this is from, or anything else about it? When I Google Thayer I get surprisingly little information. I’m inclined to guess 30’s – 40’s?

Here’s the “orphan” in question:

Actually, this is a post-WWII stroller from the early 1950s. It’s possible that it may have been sold in the late 1940s, but this style is not typical of Thayers sold immediately after WWII.  Thayer offered quite a few models like this one during the 1950s; it was an era which marked the transition from large carriages/prams to the much leaner strollers of the 1960s.

As you discovered, there’s little information about the company.  Thayer began life in 1874 as the Erie Chair Company in Erie, Pennsylvania,  which became the Downing Carriage Company in 1882.  H. N. Thayer was a principle in the Downing Carriage Company, which manufactured rattan and reed “sleeping coaches” (we’d call them baby carriages — these would have been the ones people usually describe as “wicker”) along with a host of other baby gear items.

Downing existed at least through 1894, but by 1903 H. N. Thayer was manufacturing baby carriages in Erie under his own name at the site of the former Downing plant.  The H. N. Thayer Company made children’s toys and vehicles, including baby carriages, wagons, velocipedes, and pedal cars.

The Thayer company existed in the early 1920s, but I’ve found very little documentation for the period which covers the era between WWI and WWII.  By 1929, of course, the country was spiraling deeply into depression, when more than a few companies were struggling, and there were fewer and fewer consumers with discretionary funds to spend.  It’s likely that Thayer continued during this time, to the extent possible, to produce “wicker” baby coaches, along with the sulkies they made in the ‘teens, and metal and canvas “go-kart” type strollers.

At some point during this period, Thayer relocated to Gardner, Massachusetts, which had become a huge manufacturing hub and was the home of a burgeoning baby carriage industry.  Thayer was in Gardner by 1940, but it is likely that the plant was diverted to essential wartime manufacturing during 1942-1945; production of less-critical goods like baby strollers was severely curtailed during the war years.

Thayer came back with a roar post-WWII, first with deep-bodied baby buggies with flexible synthetic bodies and hoods, and then with basic steel strollers.  Thayer strollers of the 1940s typically had simple metal bodies or frames with a minimum of upholstery; it wasn’t until the late 1940s and into the 1950s that “convertible” strollers like yours appeared with full hoods and the more finished look that the new vinyl-like fabrics allowed.

In the 1950s, Thayer was one of the best-known makers of baby carriages and strollers in the eastern USA, offering, too, a full line of doll buggies made to look just like the “real” thing.  By 1957, though, Thayer had discontinued at least one line of doll strollers made like this Thayer, and by the early 1960s these large and heavy strollers, with their full hoods and metal footwells, were history.

I’ve been unable to locate any information about Thayer in the 1960s, nor any signs that Thayer ever made the lighter, smaller strollers that rapidly took over the market during that decade.  I  haven’t been able to determine if the company closed its doors, or if it was bought-out by a competitor — not an uncommon scenario.  In the mid-1970s the old Thayer complex in Gardner was acquired by Simplex (since acquired by Tyco International), and, certainly by then, Thayer was no more.

Spotted In The Wild: Gray Bug

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.  Gray and silver Bugaboo, pram version:

We’ve had a run of Bugs lately.  Usually we don’t bother to snap them, but each of these has been a little bit different from the run-of-the-mill Bugaboo.  This Cameleon is unusually restrained; it’s kind of the counterpoint to an earlier one we featured.   Elegant or vibrant?  When you shell out a thousand bucks for a Bug, you get to chose.

Ghost Stroller

It’s a  mystery, but not to us.  A stroller, painted chalk white, appeared chained to a sign at Union and Sixth Avenue in Park Slope.  (Stroller culture fans — there are more than one, aren’t there? — know that Park Slope is upscale stroller heaven, and in Brooklyn.  New York.)

The ghostly nature of the modified stroller seems to reference bicycle memorials that have appeared in recent years in various cities, but according to a  NYT article about the spectral stroller, there’s no evidence that any babies died at this particular intersection.

“Every day my kids say, ‘What does that mean? Did a baby die?’ ” said Lauren Abrams, a midwife who lives on Union Street and was chatting with Mr. Rudnick and Ms. Bernstein. “Usually I cop out and say I don’t know what it is.”

“We don’t know what it is!” Mr. Rudnick reminded her.

Well, we at Pram Watch most certainly know “what it is”.  “It” is an Inglesina Zippy, an excellent stroller by any measure.

What does it mean symbolically?  The NYT article speculates:

.  .  .  the ghost stroller, in its bulk, feels more like an assault, possibly a deliberate upending of the Park Slope dream of better parenting through good taste.

Pram Watch does not hesitate to point out how misguided this sentence is.  It is not possible to associate “bulk” with an Inglesina Zippy; it is the leanest possible machine.  “Upending” of parental good taste?  Nonsense; if anything this piece immortalizes the good taste and sensible consumerism manifest in the choice of the practical Zippy as an infant cart.

Pram Watch does not claim to comprehend any greater symbolism incarnated here, but we humbly suggest that perhaps it’s the stroller, itself, that has died, and the flowers simply a tribute to a beloved workhorse, now removed forever from service.

Or maybe it’s just “art”.  For sure, deep colors look cool against matte white.  However, we disapprove; destruction of a fine pushchair in the name of art is never acceptable.  The “assault” here is upon a fine, wholly innocent, stroller.

Via daddytypes, who rightfully calls out the NYT for its reporter’s exemplary use of the word  “etiolated”

Image from Fucked in Park Slope (“Serving Park Slope since the great depression of 2008”), which credits @aboutmattlaw (but offers no link)

And special thanks to Cully

Update:  NYT gets the story on the 16th, Gothamist reports the stroller trashed — trashed!!!! — on the 17th.  Sic transit gloria.

Spotted In The Wild: Bugaboo Boot

Westtown, Pennsylvania.  Bugaboo, with boot:

The rarely-seen boot.  Nicely tailored, infrequently implemented.  It’s odd, really, that this rather practical stroller blanket is so little used in the USA.  Perhaps it’s because US parents so rarely take their children out in inclement weather.

The Mailbag: Kinderwagen KÜT

A visitor writes:

I have searched high and low to find information on the pram stroller , carriage bassinet i have.  So far all information seems to be about silver cross prams…. i dont think thats what i have, mine says Kinderwagen  KÜT  on the front, and under that says frank-(something) that part is a little rubbed out. it has a braided textured side to it…and leather straps. I would love to know where it was made, the year it was maybe made, and its value… thanks in advance for any info.  i’ve attached two photos of the parts.

This beauty is a combination stroller/carriage.  Here’s the pram body on the chassis:

And here is the stroller (or pushchair) seat mounted on the chassis:

The “Kinderwagen  KÜT”  threw me off a bit; I didn’t recognize that as a European manufacturer, so I checked with my very knowledgeable European connection, who is an expert in 1960s/1970s/1980s European prams, and learned that “Kinderwagen  KÜT” is likely the name of the store or dealer, rather than the manufacturer.  The manufacturer?  Best guess is Frankonia.

This wonderful combo probably dates to around 1965.  As to the issue of value:  These, as charming as they are, can be difficult to sell, for all the reasons noted in my previous posts on the subject.  (See “further information” links below.)

They are large, expensive to ship, difficult to store, and not necessarily to USA taste.  This seat, of a type beloved to your Curator, is spare in a way typical of pushchairs of the era, but not in a style generally liked in this country.

In the USA, vintage Silver Cross and Perego prams are the ones most likely to sell, and even they usually go for well under $200.00, if they sell at all.

As ever, though, the only way to determine the value is to attempt to sell it.  With patience, a buyer  might be found; with luck, one might be found quickly.

You might want to do some research (begin with those articles below!) before deciding how much you want to ask.  You are free to ask any price you like, but the market will tell you how realistic your choice is.

Further information:

What Is My Stroller/Pram/Baby Carriage Worth?

What’s It Worth?  Part 2

Visit our European expert’s marvelous pram gallery, Prachtstueckwerk!

Spotted In The Wild: Flyer

King of Prussia, Pennsylvania:  Bumbleride Flyer.

I’ve seen more Bumblerides on the west coast than on the east.  Bumbleride’s most distinctive offerings are large, lumbering, European-type classic pram-strollers of the sort your Curator is extremely fond, but they also offer two smaller, lighter strollers, both of which can accept an optional carrycot bed which turns them into a small pram.  The Flyer is one of these.

The Mailbag: Emails We Don’t Like

Pram Watch is taking a short break from our long hiatus to answer an email of the sort we don’t like much.  “Jill” wrote:

Hi  I was intrigued by your website  I just found this item in Ocean City NJ.  It was owned by a wealthy family and was found in amazing condition.  Nothing missing but one white brake stop.  Please inform me on others like this.  Name of Stroller, maybe year and if there is a market for this.  Thanks Jill from Ocean City.

Hi, Jill.  How interesting that you ask these questions, when it appears that you have this very item listed on eBay, right now.  The photographs are the same ones you sent me, and the eBay seller is “jillkoz” in Ocean City.

So it seems that you actually know exactly what this stroller is.  It’s an Emmaljunga Baby Bus, just as noted in the listing.  Here’s your picture:

I’m not going to answer any of your rather unfortunately disingenuous questions, except for the last one, which asks me to “inform” you if there is a market for this stroller.  As you are about to discover, the answer is essentially “no”.

And there certainly isn’t a market at the absurd price in this listing.  The listing is asking for $1400.00 for a used stroller that the seller claims cost more than  $1300.00 new.  And for which said seller undoubtedly paid much, much less, unless that same seller was taken for quite a ride herself.

The new price quoted in the eBay listing for this version of this stroller, with no accessories, is grossly inflated.   Brand new, at $1300.00, this stroller should have included two stroller boots; an apron; and a full pram body with its own hood, as well as this frame;  two seats; and two hoods.   And yet, this listing asks for $100.00 more than that! That takes nerve.

In fact, right now, on eBay, there is another navy Baby Bus listed, this one in Chicago, with a beginning bid of $99.00, and a Buy It Now price of $220.00.  (One of you seems to have stolen text from another of you, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Two days ago, a different navy Baby Bus FAILED to sell on eBay for a starting bid of $75.00, and a Buy It Now price of $200.00.

That $1400.00 price is looking a little silly, now, isn’t it?

Here’s why there is essentially no market for this stroller, even for many times less than $1400.00:

  • The Baby Bus is over four feet long, with the handle folded, and extremely heavy.
  • This is not a stroller that can be easily moved in and out of vehicles.  It’s big, heavy, and best transported broken down.
  • It is so heavy that it is best used in neighborhoods where there are no hills.  It could be hard to control going down hill, and, loaded with toddlers, stressful to push uphill.
  • Storing it on a porch or garage uses quite a bit of room.  Storing it in the house is probably out of the question.
  • This is not a stroller anyone would want to be taking up and down stairs on a regular basis.
  • This is not a very maneuverable stroller; it has a huge turning radius.
  • The Baby Bus requires some strength to push, especially when loaded with toddlers.

The eBay listing claims that the Baby Bus is “RARE 1 OF A KIND”.  This is not  true; Baby Buses turn up fairly frequently on eBay, on Craigslist, and elsewhere. They were sold as recently as ten years ago, and aren’t even truly “rare”, as you can tell from the links above.

By the way, navy is the most common color for the Baby Bus, so this model is not only not rare, but not even the rarest version of this type.

The usual problem is that they can’t be given away.  We at The Pram Museum acquired ours, a red  (and therefore more unusual) one, with full boots, for less than one-twenty-fourth what this eBay listing asks.  At that, we may have paid a little too much.

Worse, the listing for the pictures you sent to us implies that these seats are car seats:

And, you ask, “What is a pram?”  It is a stroller that converts into a car seat.  That will save space and make life easier.

These seats are NOT car seats; in fact it would be dangerous to use them in a motor vehicle.  Not to mention that nothing about this stroller is space-saving.  And no, a pram is NOT “a stroller that converts into a car seat”.  Not even close.

Yes, this stroller appears to be in excellent shape.  Yes, it might be possible to sell it.  Many people love Emmaljunga strollers (this is not a pram of any sort), and anything is possible.

There may be some confused person somewhere who is willing to buy a used stroller for far more than it sold new; things like this happen.  But you’d have to find a real idiot to buy it at this price.  A more realistic price would be around that $200.00 mark.  Or less. But it still is likely to be hard to sell, even at that price.

And buyers?  Note that this ridiculously priced item carries an additional shipping price of $84.00.

We’re glad to share our knowledge with visitors who write to us, but it is rather offensive to get an email from someone who is pretending not to know information they are asking for, who does not disclose that they are in the process of trying to sell the item in question, who has a listing up, and is only bothering to fact-check after the listing has been posted.

This is even more offensive when the listing is inaccurate in the first place because the lister felt free to supply imaginary information instead of facts.  We prefer not to aid sellers who are, let us say, inventive, in their selling practices.

Pram Watch does not charge for viewing this site, for answering emails, for generously sharing information.  But we do hope for, and expect, a degree of transparency in our correspondents.

Don’t ask us to waste our time telling you what what you already know; be honest and tell us if you’re selling the item, as opposed to finding about it for Aunt Betty, or because it’s a beloved piece from your personal history.

We’ll probably help you anyway.  But don’t waste our (donated) time, and don’t yank our chain in an attempt to increase your profit.  It’s not really much to ask.

Buyers and sellers who want more information regarding those activities should check these posts:

Prams On eBay:  Buyer Beware

What Is My Stroller/Pram/Baby Carriage Worth?

What’s It Worth?  Part 2

And, you ask, “What is a pram?”  It is a stroller that converts into a car seat.  That will save space and make life easier.

Pram Watch Is On Hiatus

.  .  .  until mid-June August.  Keep an eye out for some new acquisitions, more pram-spotting, and various tidbits of interest when we return.  See you then!

Mailbag: A Pre-WWII Siebert

A visitor writes:

I .  .  .   have a carriage made by O.W. Siebert Co. But have no idea how old it is can you help. Any info you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

The carriage in question

is an beautiful example of prams made between WWI and WWII. This particular one appears to be doll-sized, but many, if not most, toy carriages of that time were virtually identical to their full-sized counterparts.

Deep-bodied prams like this one were meant to accommodate rather old children — sometimes up to five or six years old — who were thought to be less likely to climb or tumble out during the fresh air naps recommended by doctors of the era.  The extension panel that can be seen slightly folded out on the right would be lowered to allow a larger child’s legs to stretch out and make the interior more bed-like.

The “extra” handle that can be seen to the left allowed servants could carry the pram up and down stairs, one person to each end.  The main handle has another interesting feature (or so it seems to me from the photograph):  It appears to adjust up or down to allow it to “grow” with its child owner.

I suspect that this one dates from the early or mid-1930s.  Not only is it unusually beautiful, with the lovely two-tone shield motif, but Siebert’s springs are a much more graceful version than those typically seen on British prams, especially of the same type.  These curve under toward the center of the pram, and then over, the body attachment points, curling the opposite way from most.

Deep-bodied prams became uncommon by the start of WWII, and prams manufactured after the war were quite different in style, reflecting the enormous changes the war had wrought in Europe as well as within the United States.

Value, as I always point out, is difficult to determine for old prams, strollers, and carriages.  (Links below are worth reading if you are interested in this topic.)  This carriage, particularly if it is doll-sized, falls outside the scope of the ones I generally discuss on Pram Watch because of its interest to decorators, doll collectors, and others who may value it for its beauty, rather than because it has nostalgic value.  If the right buyer were found, its value might be quite high; as ever, finding the “right” buyer is the issue.  Unlike most vintage prams, this one might be best sold by a responsible auction house.

I would strongly recommend against any attempts to repair the hood, as doing so might reduce this pram’s historic value.  The marks of age are part of its charm, and are best honored and appreciated just as they are.

Related:  What Is My Stroller/Pram/Baby Carriage Worth? and What’s It Worth?  Part 2