HBC has limited information on children's tethers and walkingb harnesses. They are definitely not a new fad. Some painters like Rubens or Pieter de Hook have shown children on leashes. There is some information that they were not uncommon for extremely young children in the 17th-19th centuries. We do note images of aristocratic children wearing harnesses from the 17th and 18th centuries. The best example is the painting of Larguillière picturing Louis XIV with his grandson, the future Louis XV on reins. We do not have comparable images of peasant children. This may be that only children of the upperclass, who were considered more important to protect, were put in tethers. It could be that the poorer children were no treated similarly and there are just no paintings recording it. There are many depictions of leading strings in the 19th century. We even note one depiction in a Sears catalog about 1900. Here we are just not sure. Such harnesses appear to have went out of favor after the early 19th century, but were popular at the turn of the 20th century. They were rarely see after World War II as populations moved to the safer suburbs. There has been a renewed interest in child walking harnesses since the 1990s as mothers have become increasingly concerned with child saftey.
We notice numerous illustrations of leading strings for children in contemprary art work, but not harnesses.
Some painters like Rubens or Pieter de Hook have shown children on leashes or leading strings, but notm harnesses. There is some information that they were not uncommon for extremely young children in the 17th-19th centuries. We do note images of aristocratic children wearing harnesses from the 17th and 18th centuries.
The best example is leading strings in 17th and 18th century art is the painting of Larguillière picturing Louis XIV with his grandson, the future Louis XV on reins. We do not have comparable images of peasant children. This may be that only children of the upperclass, who were considered more important to protect, were put in tethers. It could be that the poorer children were no treated similarly and there are just no paintings recording it.
There are many depictions of leading strings in the 19th century. The popularity seems to have varied greatly over the century. We note the son of Napoleon I wearing a dress with leading strings in the early 19th century. We are not sure when the first child harnesses appeared. Leading strings appear to have went out of favor after the early 19th century, but never entirely disappeared. We note there was a return to popularity at the turn-of-the 20th century at which time the chid harness appers to have come into vogue. At first, leading strings were tied with a waist cloth strap on dresses. They were intended to help the child to learn to walk safely and when this happened, the leading strings were taken off. Even if there is no proof of what we will assert, it seems that at first, any wandering or boisterous child was simply roped around the waist as we can see in the movie "Silas Marner" a little girl going out the home for taking a walk. She is 2 or 3 years old. The foster father who is a singe parent while a hard weaving worker at home takes her in his arms and gently tell her that she will be leashed with a solid rope attached to a pole. More recently, the renowned writer Marilyn French tells a similar story in Women's Room . A reader pointed out the work of Bill Taylor, an Aftro-American artist born in the 1850s. He thinks that Taylor may have depicted tethered children, although Taylor's primitive style mskes this difficult to say with any certainty. This is interesting because our general assessment that tethering children was more common with middle-class children than children from poor families. We notice numerous depictions of children playing a kind of horsey game with one child in a harness playing the part of the horse. Such images are much more common than those of children tethered to restrict their movement.
The increasing dangers of urban life created a demand for child walking harnesses at the turn of the 20th century. We even note one depiction in a Sears catalog about 1900, although this may have been more of a toy. In a period of time when horses were numerous, children were glad to play horses in saying "Giddy up" . Even today, some stores sell pony harness for kids (figure ?--picture #14) So, they sometimes enjoy to be leashed instead to be hit or shouted at high voice. It was mainly in the wealthy upper middle-class living in large citiues that reining appeared at first in England , in France, in Netherlands and in Scandinavia. Usually, nurses used to leash child before going to parks. Even today parents are seeking for the traditional leather harness and rein which a lot of children wore until their entrance at the primary school. With technological advances, parents having less children than before sought a mean to
protect their children. while teaching them to stay quiet for long hours in studying. Even if there is no relation between harnesses and ribbons, it happened than harness played the same role as ribbons. A kid on leashes was considered as a specific social category called "child" and the member of that category had to prove he was mature enough to see his harness definitly weaned off. During the world war II , children carried out from London when on Blitz wore their harness to avoid to be lost in crowds. This prctice was so extensive that when post-war english emigrants went to Canada, Australia or New Zealand, they used to leash their child when outings or in narrow backyards in tying the reins to a clothline. Because many adults leashed as kids din't like to remind this "dog life" , step by step, those who are now grandparents talk more freely about this practice which was not so degrading as it seemed at first. Many will tell you that the 50s were great with straight but also loving parents. We note a Chicago mother using a safty harness in 1958. Around the 60's, reins disappeared because the growing importance of suburbs and the influence of Dr Spock on child rearing.
The swinging of the pendulum went back to more humanistic way of life when people leaved overcrowd cities for nice and quiet suburbs designed for baby-boomers. No need for reins ou leashes there. Car seats and strollers became soft restrainers far from the dark ages of sidewalks and backyards. Reins where forgotten and only old ladies unable to run
after kids they were caring used old leather harnesses. As a matter of fact, kids walked less and less because of car
and bus for going to schools but they played more in parks designed for them. When families where a only child
families, the practice for hand taking became the rule. The child had to be free and any use of reins was supposed to
harm the psychological well-being of the kid.
Suddenly, people came to see some kids on harness after 1990. Many factors can explain this phenomenon.
First, many parents, tired to be jammed in traffic, returned to overcrowded cities which offered more and more
opportunities for young parents. And where to find a lot of entertainements for kids and also for parents ? In the city.
Some courageous or overwhelmed parents were unable to see a solution to their anxiety when on outings with kids.
Because of the danger that represenrted mega shopping centers, mega attraction parks, mega adventure parks, mega
fireworks which attracted in one day hundreds and hundred of people, it became evident that parents were required to
be cautious with their kids. Younger where reined like at the beginning of the century and the older children until 6
years old wore a wrist link (figure ?n picture #15) or a harness designed for children 4 months to 4 years old (picture #16)
With a growing demand, some child harness manufacturers like Mothercare, Boots in England and Safety First and Dandee produced a lot of models which were really less cost than leather one with an unsurpassed efficiency. Polypropylene webbing, used at first with climbers, became generalized to walking harness and reins for security
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