So I was looking for a photograph or diagram of the “friction drive“, an early continuously variable transmission used in the 1906 Orient Buckboard made by Waltham Mfg and I came across this period advertisement, selling an accessory child’s seat for the Buckboard. The Buckboard was exactly that, a buckboard horse cart with a one cylinder gasoline engine. Like many early runabouts the Orient Buckboard was a two-seater. There was no room for the rest of the family. Some companies, like Ford, offered a third “mother in law” seat out back, but Waltham decided to go in the other direction.
The detachable child’s seat for the Orient Buckboard cost an additional $25, a not insignificant sum in light of the fact that the cheapest version of the Buckboard was $375 (without headlamps and a folding roof), but as the ad, from the trade journal Motor Age and aimed at car agencies (i.e. dealers) pointed out, it made the rather primitive motor car a bit more marketable.
The child’s seat mounted in the front of the Buckboard got me thinking. I babysit my year old grandson once a week. Under state law here in Michigan, I’m not even allowed to put his car seat in the front passenger compartment of the car, let alone drive around with him exposed on the hood of the car. Never mind the fact that sitting in his rear-facing car seat he wouldn’t be endangered by an activated airbag in the event of an accident, the law is the law.
Sometimes I wonder how those of us who are here today got here without the safety nannies telling our parents how to keep their kids alive long enough to reach adulthood. Heck, I would never have graduated from grade school because some days in the carpool there were 10 kids in a six passenger sedan. “There’s a policeman. Hide under the dashboard!” Yes, I made my kids wear bicycle helmets and nobody can ride in a car that I’m driving without being belted in but like I said, sometimes I wonder how we made it here without the do-gooders.
Parents have always been concerned about safety. I’m sure the parents 109 years ago that opted for that optional child’s seat on their Orient Buckboard figured that was safer than holding the kid in Mom’s lap. At the Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America exhibit, there’s a display about auto safety, including a selection of car seats that date back to the 1950s or earlier. From our perspective some of them are clearly death traps. The landmark General Motors Infant Love Seat seat that I used for my two oldest kids (who now have kids of their own) would probably not meet the government safety standards of today.
Discuss amongst yourselves.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS