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Antique Baby Cradles & Wooden Cribs

The Pilgrims were industrious procreators, one baby a year was standard, and thus baby cradles and cribs, and later small childrens beds such as trundle beds, were of just as much importance as those for the larger folk.

The first bundle of joy to be greeted was Peregrine White, who was born aboard the "Mayflower" while it lay in anchor in Provincetown Harbor, and was promptly housed in the hooded wicker cradle pictured below. The cradle was likely of Dutch origin, and certainly in the Dutch style, and was not typical of the baby cradles and cribs of the early colonial period.

Peregrine White's cradle, Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth
Peregrine White's cradle, Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth.
Wicker (willow), oak rockers, maple strut, circa 1620.

More typically handmade antique baby cradles of the seventeenth century were panel sided things of similar construction to the chests of the same period but without the lid and with the addition of rockers. In later times wooden hoods or canopies were added as seen in the pictures below. Further forward in time sides of baby cradles and cribs became flared upwards and outwards, made with or without a hood, and having a framework of mortise and dovetail construction in the corners.

Antique Hooded Cradle
Antique Hooded Cradle

It might be noted, for antique collectors, that such cradles as these are of picturesque interest only, their practical use, holding babies, is cast in doubtful light if we consider that one wrong step, on one of the rockers, may catapult the little one who knows where.

Fuller Cradle
Fuller Cradle, also in Pilgrim Hall.
Solid white pine boards with strips of maple nailed on presumably to imitate joined panelwork, likely hand made in Duxbury, Massachusetts, circa 1700. With the open front baby could be watched by mother from almost any angle.

Babies, unfortunately, soon outgrow their cradles, and require larger resting places such as trundle beds, our next topic.

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