Antique Cradle

firstwordmanFebruary 22, 2011

For the past month or so I've been trying to figure out just how this cradle is supposed to work and, though I've figured out some things, it's just about got the best of me. I'm assuming that it is handmade and thus unique but maybe it isn't. The cradle is supposed to rock automatically (I think) once the spring is wound but I cannot figure out quite how. There is a piece (or two or three...) that appears to be missing. I'm hoping that someone can help me out. The missing piece(s) must have been there to stabilize the swing once the motion has been set into place.

When I got it, the gears were frozen with rust but they operate freely now. The ratcheting mechanism seems to be too stiff for the swinging bed to make it ratchet without causing the bed to swing off center. I believe the handle(?) to the ratcheting gear must have been longer. It appears to have been broken off and I can see no need for the clamp to be there otherwise. I'm attaching a couple of pictures but I've uploaded a lot more pictures to with the hopes that someone can help me determine what I need to do to make it operate as it should. I'd love to give it to my cousin but I would like to have it operational first :-).

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornbreadcreek

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I found several references to cradles like your's including the biography of a man from Manitowoc, Wisconsin who supposedly 'invented' the automatic cradle. He founded the Automatic Cradle Company and designed one after a suggestion from his wife. There were numerous patents approved for such devices after the mid 1890s through the first decade of the twentieth century. I also found some antique appraisals of similar finds and saw values of around $250 to $300 for properly working models. I think you have an authentic antique. I would wonder if you could not find the drawings for them from old patents if you can find a searchable database.

Now, as to fixing it up and giving it to your cousin.....super, but I'd warn you even refurbished it would probably not pass a muster for actually using it for a baby because of the spindle spacing and also the spring. If you've never seen a spring under tension fracture, then you couldn't appreciate the power it contains, perhaps being able to even puncture a thin crib mattress. Certainly enough to deliver a heck of a wallop.

Good luck in your search. I used an antique cradle with one of my foster babies and it was the perfect size until she was able to sleep in a standard crib. It's a really lovely old novelty.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 1:43PM
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What a beautiful cradle. I would see about fixing it up for your family. Perhaps you could figure out a way to stabilize the bed and add a nice mattress and bumper.

I had a much simpler one made for our kids in the '70s, and then spiffed it up with new linens and a bumper for the grands. It is a great addition to a home. I used mine as a downstairs bed when the babies were tiny so that I was not running up and downstairs all day long.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2011 at 10:40PM
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