Just For A Kid – Not Quite DOT Approved

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
just for a kid 8211 not quite dot approved

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.

“Mother-in-law” seat on a Model T runabout, Piquette Ave Model T Factory

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

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  • AMC_CJ AMC_CJ on Jun 13, 2013

    I don't remember being in a car seat long. We had vans, so growing up if I sat in the back seat I didn't need a belt (which my dad got ticketed for one time..... now they would have probably put him in jail.) We use to go camping a lot in a converted out Ford Econoline work van. Only had two front seats; sometime I would go sleep or play in back on the shag carpet. This was in the 90's too, but my parents were older than most and grew up in the 50's; I guess carrying the same mentality. I also remember riding around in the backup of pickup trucks when we were slightly older. That was always fun.

  • Power6 Power6 on Jun 13, 2013

    I didn't know Watch City had a car mfr! I lived there for years I wonder where the factory was. Seems like auto/child safety has gotten to the point where the returns are diminishing, you aren't a bad parent if you don't have the newest car or put your toddler in a rear facing seat. There are whole industries ready to convince you otherwise.

  • Probert There's something wrong with that chart. The 9 month numbers for Tesla, in the chart, are closer to Tesla's Q3 numbers. They delivered 343,830 cars in q3 and YoY it is a 40% increase. They sold 363,830 but deliveries were slowed at the end of the quarter - no cars in inventory. For the past 9 months the total sold is 929,910 . So very good performance considering a major shutdown for about a month in China (Covid, factory revamp). Not sure if the chart is also inaccurate for other makers.
  • ToolGuy "...overall length grew only fractionally, from 187.6” in 1994 to 198.7” in 1995."Something very wrong with that sentence. I believe you just overstated the length by 11 inches.
  • ToolGuy There is no level of markup on the Jeep Wrangler which would not be justified or would make it any less desirable [perfectly inelastic demand, i.e., 'I want one']. Source: My 21-year-old daughter.
  • ToolGuy Strong performance from Fiat.
  • Inside Looking Out GM is like America, it does the right thing only after trying everything else.  As General Motors goes, so goes America.