Sketch 11 on the Illustrated London News (ILN) page , ‘Taking Care of Baby’, shows one aspect of local family life that visitors found fascinating, the cloth baby carriers.
They were a simple design, a cloth square with straps on the corners that tied across your chest. The straps aren’t clear to see in the ILN sketch – the babies seem to be hanging on to the peoples’ shoulders instead. I think it’s an example of the engraver being given something they hadn’t seen before, and not getting the engraving quite right. We get a much better view in the selection of early 20th-century photos and postcards shown below.
The first photo shows a woman carrying a child, probably her first or her youngest child. As is often the case, the cloth square has an embroidered pattern. As is also often the case, the baby is asleep which means their head lolls back at an alarming angle. Still, it didn’t seem to cause any long term damage, so let’s hope they are enjoying the luxury of being carried around, as it wouldn’t last long.
In those days of large families with lots of siblings, they will soon be given the job of carrying a younger brother or sister, as shown in the other scenes. These two colour views are clearly from the same, pre-1911 (shaved forehead!) negative, but the two different postcard publishers have chosen their own colour scheme and background.
The last photo shows an urgent need of another cloth square, a hanky!
These photos and text came from the draft of my new book, Volume 5 of the Old Hong Kong Photos and The Tales They Tell series.
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