December 30, 2009

About That London Baby Cage


The caption on this Hulton Archive photo reads:

27th January 1934: An example of the wire cage which East Poplar borough council in London propose to fix to the outside of their tenement windows, so that babies can benefit from fresh air and sunshine. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
It was included in "Londoners Through A Lens," an exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery which opened in August and closed a couple of weeks ago.

East Poplar is probably inaccurate. Poplar was a poor, overcrowded, working class area of East London. [It was merged to form Tower Hamlets in 1965.] In the 1920s and 30s, the Poplar Borough Council was a strong advocate for tax, health, housing, wage, and work-related reforms that would improve conditions for its factory worker residents.

In 1927, the PBC's Health Department was operating a "Health Cinema," educational newsreels at the movies to teach basics of hygiene and disease prevention, particularly tuberculosis. The PBC also operated an Infant Welfare Center. "Slum clearing" and public housing construction initiatives in London generally and Poplar in particular were stalled through 1930-33 by the Depression. Given that context, then, hanging kids out the window of cramped tenements they couldn't afford to replace probably seemed like a reasonable stopgap solution. [via boing "can't be bothered to come up with more than a WTF photo" boing]

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