A few days ago DT reader Nathan spotted this amazing-looking vintage cradle on eBay in St Louis. [Turns out it's also on craigslist.] "Had this been up a year ago," Nathan wrote, "I would have considered it for our second kid."
Right? But what even is it? I gotta admit, this one had me stumped.
It's a two-part molded fiberglass shell, which looks very Eames technology, if not exactly Eames design. But it's mounted on a vibrating/rocking motor base. The eBay description says the seller used it for their own kids, and their grandkids, and it's still going strong.
The label on the bottom says "Anthony & Co.," but it doesn't even mention the cradle, just the motor specs/disclaimers. The address in Los Angeles doesn't have a zip code, which dates it to pre-1963. And that's what we have. I couldn't turn up anything at all about an Anthony & Co., or a motorized fiberglass cradle.
Which made me think maybe it's a one-off, a hack. Like some enterprising dad had taken an old coin-operated rocking horse from in front of his family pizza joint and attached a custom cradle. The mind reeled, imagining all that effort for a piece of gear that might have six months of useful life, tops, per kid. And yet it's still rocking, two+ generations later.
But the title on this post is not Mystery Cradle, it's Magic Cradle. And the tell was the address. When I put the LA street address into Google Books, a bunch of old magazine ads for Stauffer Home Reducing Plan showed up. Stauffer manufactured the Magic Couch, a motorized oscillating weight loss machine that supposedly exercised for you. And the Magic Couch also converted to the Magic Cradle, the world's first [sic] motorized rocking bassinet. The ad above is from the Saturday Evening Post. [I enlarged the Cradle part.] And Popular Mechanics said the Magic Cradle could convert to a hobby horse and a "nursery" [a playpen, I guess].
The Magic Cradle was introduced in 1959, just as competition was heating up in the pointless mechanical vibrating weight loss contraption industry, and right before a damning report in Reader's Digest [right?] declared the whole concept was a ripoff. Rather than help diversify Stauffer's business, the Cradle was an expensive bust. The company was stuck with more than 3,000 unsold units as their sales tanked.
So greet this survivor with a kind salute; unless there's an undiscovered warehouse in Albuquerque full of them, this may be the only one you ever see.
Mid-century baby furniture
Eams style, egg-shaped, motorized, rocking, baby cradle, opening bid $150, BIN $400+freight, auction ends Aug. 27 [ebay via dt reader nathan]
A tax accountant's-eye view of Stauffer's business: ESTATE OF STAUFFER v COMMISSIONER [leagle.com]