showcase baby (Mar, 1947)

This is pretty horrifying. If they actually kept that kid in there all the time, I’m guessing he’s pretty screwed up. Which does make me wonder…

showcase baby

LITTLE John Gray Jr., three months old when these pictures were taken, has seldom been outside of this glass house in which he lives. His showcase home is temperature and humidity controlled, dirt-free and has a built-in air filter. It is partially sound-proof-he can bellow without straining the family nerves. He doesn’t catch cold;

visitors can’t pass their germs through the glass and the house’s temperature never varies from 84 degrees. At the slightest deviation, a bell rings. There are no draughts and neither is there the fear of smothering; there are no bed covers. Papa John Gray Sr. built the ingenious baby house in the workshop of his home in Sea Cliff, Long Island, New York. Only time will tell whether the child will escape the usual ills.

  1. Henrix says: September 12, 200812:21 am

    It does not seem to be the same John Gray as the author, even though that would have suited the story.
    According to Wikipedia the author was born in -51, making it unlikely that he appeared in an article in -47.

  2. David says: September 12, 200812:53 am

    No this one probably committed suicide at 17

  3. Walter says: September 12, 20082:04 am

    Fools. Poor child. What barbarity.

  4. greg from daddytypes says: September 12, 20084:04 am

    it’s a Skinner Box, named after the Harvard behavioral psychologist BF Skinner. Ladies Home Journal published an article in 1945 about the first one, which he called the Baby Tender. They eventually came out with a commercial version called the Aircrib. Tons of people were raised in these things, mostly the children of psychologists.…

    All that said, that’s pretty nice workmanship for a DIY.

  5. Vozpit says: September 12, 20085:27 am

    He looks like deli meat under that glass. I’m sure that his body built up all the natural immunities to disease being cut off from the rest of the world too.

  6. SueDoc says: September 12, 20085:34 am

    #4, read the article again – it’s NOT a Skinner Box. That was a different invention by Skinner, used for experiments.

  7. David Traver Adolphus says: September 12, 20085:43 am

    Welcome to 2006. Population: you.…

  8. Marty says: September 12, 20086:03 am

    #6, It IS a Skinner Box, but not the ones used in the lab. Baby Box/Air Crib users called their enclosed baby cribs “Skinner Boxes”. An in-joke, as it were. They were also called Baby Boxes or Air Cribs (an AirCrib was also manufactured commercially for a short time.)

    My siblings and I were raised in one, many, many decades ago, and so was my daughter, twenty-five years ago. Click here for some tips on how my daughter’s was built: <a href=””.

    There’s nothing barbaric about them at all. They’re used just like a standard crib, but without requiring suffocating blankets, laundry or forcing a baby to sleep face up. The baby can move freely in sleep or when awake. It’s not surprising that a 3 month old would have spent most of his life in his — most babies that young spend most of their time in a standard crib. Older babies, not so much.

    The physical freedom for the baby is fantastic, and so is the reduced laundry load. Not to mention that you can have the baby box right in a room where you might work, or gather with the family. Pull the shade at bedtime, and you can keep using the room, baby close by, but undisturbed.

    By the way, your average baby box isn’t any more germ-free than a baby’s bedroom. The only difference in that area is that a sick sibling could be in the same room with a baby in an air crib, right next to the crib, and the barrier would reduce somewhat the chances of the baby getting a bug, if the sibling stayed away otherwise.

  9. Marty says: September 12, 20086:04 am

    Uhh, apparently that would be “cut and paste” to see tips on how my daughter’s air crib was built:


  10. Mike says: September 12, 20086:40 am

    I wonder how sick the kid was after he was removed from the box and exposed to the real world.

  11. Marty says: September 12, 20087:42 am

    #10 He wasn’t. The crib isn’t air-tight or germ-free. It’s got a filter, not an on-board closed oxygen system.

  12. Shanti says: September 12, 20089:37 am

    How boring! Not only that, I actually DO find being by yourself that young for extended periods of time barbaric and cruel.

    “It’s not surprising that a 3 month old would have spent most of his life in his — most babies that young spend most of their time in a standard crib.”

  13. Kathy says: September 12, 200810:48 am

    most babies that young spend most of their time in a standard crib

    Maybe the babies in YOUR house, but not in MINE. Nor do I think you could say “most” and have that be accurate.

  14. Robotnik says: September 12, 200811:11 am

    Actually, a baby doesn’t need physical freedom to begin with, it actually makes them scared, because they are used to the confining space of the womb. In fact, you often have to roll them in blankets to make them feel safe and happy. The urge for physical freedom comes later, when they learn to move. And i think my son spend the most of the time in my lap and arms, not in a crib. 🙂 Because they, we as humans, need lots and lots of physical contact.

  15. e.varden says: September 12, 200811:34 am

    Indigenous North Amareican indians understood this: hence the strapped in “bundle-board” or “Papoose”.

    Tight-hugs is common in Scandanavian countries. Some folk have more sensitivity to the newborn than others….

  16. Dragon Child says: September 12, 200811:52 am

    It is partially sound-proof-he can bellow without straining the family nerves.
    Yup, just another way for Americans to neglect their babies and shirk the responsibilities of parenthood. And if baby’s crying, then a need is not being met.

    And SIDS has nothing to do with smothering. Or bedding. Find out what SIDS is before you start recommending a neglect-o-matic to prevent it.

    Actually, a baby doesn’t need physical freedom to begin with, it actually makes them scared, because they are used to the confining space of the womb. In fact, you often have to roll them in blankets to make them feel safe and happy. The urge for physical freedom comes later, when they learn to move. And i think my son spend the most of the time in my lap and arms, not in a crib. 🙂 Because they, we as humans, need lots and lots of physical contact.

    EXACTLY. I know my daughter spent no time alone in the first several months of her life and she’s one of the most amazing people I know now.

  17. Marty says: September 12, 20083:13 pm

    #12, #13, Well, yes, it is true that most babies the age of the one in this article probably do spend most of their in a standard crib (or possibly a bassinet, but cribs are far more common in this country). According to Dr. Sears, noted pediatrician:

    “In the first three months, tiny babies seldom sleep for more than four-hour stretches without needing a feeding. Tiny babies have tiny tummies. Yet, they usually sleep a total of 14-18 hours a day.”

    Check it out here (tip no. 4): http://www.askdrsears.c…

    That would translate out to spending most of their time sleeping. In the USA, most of that sleeping in done in a conventional crib or equivalent.most of that sleeping in done in a conventional crib

    #14,#15, Some babies like, and even need, swaddling. Some babies hate it. Some don’t care one way or another. It’s really an individual thing. My baby hated it. An air crib was perfect for her.

    #16 I didn’t mention mention SIDS myself, but since you bring it up, parents are now advised to make sure that babies who use cribs, bassinets, etc. sleep face up to reduce the chance of SIDS, which may be caused by gasses trapped in small pockets in bedding near a baby’s nose, or from bedding interfering with the baby’s breathing (or by other causes, too).

    There aren’t any pockets in a mesh air crib, or any bedding to bunch up under the baby, so that’s not an issue for the Baby Box. Neither is getting tangled up in blankets or crib bumpers or pillows.

    By the way, unless you strapped your baby to your body 24/7 (in which case, how did you sleep?), she probably did spend some time alone, at least when she slept. Which is when a baby would be in an air crib. Or any other crib, or crib-type bed. But it’s worth noting that using the Skinner Box meant that my own daughter was never more than a few feet away from me during babyhood, even when sleeping.

    And that’s the point — it’s a bed, not a cage. It’s used just like a crib (which, by the way, does have bars like a cage). Feeding, cuddling, socializing are all done outside the baby box — unless you’re one sick puppy. Plenty of people who use conventional cribs find ways to neglect their children, but it’s not the crib that makes the difference, it’s the parent.

    For those of you who are worried about my daughter’s well-being, she spent a tremendously enriched childhood, was home-schooled for most of it, and eventually graduated from a top-notch liberal arts college. Without ever once seeing a babysitter or the inside of any kind of day care. You couldn’t make any case that I used her Skinner Box to “shirk the responsibilities of parenthood” (that’s from comment #16). In fact, she had a Skinner Box precisely because I embraced those responsibilities!

    If you click my link above, you’ll be able to see for yourself how neglected she looked in her Skinner Box. (The link’s in comment #9.) She is now gainfully employed, self-supporting, and embracing a fantastic adulthood. If something went wrong in her childhood, it’s safe to say it wasn’t her Skinner Box, nor is there much evidence that she’s the product of an insensitive, neglectful parent.

    I’m kind of surprised that people who read a blog called “Modern Mechanix” are such rigid thinkers. Isn’t innovative thinking the core of of mechanics, and tinkering-type ways? Odd.

  18. Charlie says: September 12, 20083:35 pm

    Marty: I think you’re right, that it’s all in the parenting, and an air crib (I like the term “heir conditioner”) is just like any other crib in that regard. It may even be better. To me the really scary thing was the caption on the image that talks about how the parents were breaking the rules by lowering the wall for the photo shot. That and the bit about germs gives the impression that they did not physically interact with their child very much at all.

  19. Marty says: September 12, 20084:15 pm

    Thanks for such a reasonable response, Charlie (#18). Whenever there was publicity about the air crib in the 1940s (and into the 1950s), the focus seemed to be on making the idea as shocking as possible. (Maybe it still is!) An early article about the original Skinner Box almost left the impression that B. F. Skinner planned to leave his child in it until she left for graduate school. I guess it made for good press, but it was really too bad, since it tended to keep people from really considering what the air crib actually is.

    “Heir conditioner” is a great name. I’d forgotten about that one.

  20. notbob says: September 14, 20084:56 am

    I’m no expert on this subject but I doubt I would use this device for early child rearing. I don’t think #11 quite understood #10’s comment. #10 was concerned that after the baby was removed from this device it would have no immunities to germs. You have to be exposed to acquire immunities. This device also eliminates bonding with the parents. This is is of vital importance to the child’s sense of well being. That’s the barbaric part of this device. Being a baby is no picnic, they need the constant comfort of their parents.

  21. Marty says: September 14, 20087:01 am

    #30, you and #10 missed the point that using an air crib does not in any way provide a germ-free environment. The baby is removed from the air crib just as often as from a conventional crib, and for exactly the same reasons — feeding, changing, cuddling. There’s no difference. Did you really think it was possible to put a baby into an air crib and just leave it there permanently? Think, people, think!

    It’s just a different kind of bed — one without bars or a lot of bedding to wash. It doesn’t eliminate bonding any more than a standard crib does — in fact, it makes it bonding easier if the air crib is in a family living area, instead of put in a separate bedroom as most cribs are in the USA.

    In our case, we had a lot MORE time for cuddling because there was very little laundry to do. That extra free time went directly to the baby.

    Somebody once said that most of the opposition to the air crib came from people who just didn’t understand what it was. Case in point. For us, it was fantastic. For people who love putting babies behind bars, doing tons of laundry, and having babies out of sight and out of mind in a far bedroom, traditional cribs are the way to go. For the rest of us, it’s great to have such a baby-friendly alternative.

  22. Scott Gray says: September 20, 20085:51 pm

    The baby in the picture is my Dad…and despite the deli-meat treatment he turned out just fine…but it is pretty funny to look at a baby under glass.

  23. Ruth Gray says: September 21, 20085:45 pm

    Thank you Marty for your explanation of the Aircrib. As the wife of the cute little baby in the photo I can tell you he turned out great. He is a very caring, considerate husband, father and grandfather. I really wish people check the facts before posting comments. The Aircrib was not barbaric at all. I guess there will always be some who state their opinions without knowing the facts. I admit the Aircrib seems a bit unusual, but so did a lot of other inventions that people take for granted today.

  24. MJ says: October 6, 20088:17 am

    It seems to me that people who condone these ……….. cages shouldn’t have had kids in the first place.
    Its cruel and barbaric and don’t make excuses that its done with babies best interests at heart.
    What a croc!
    We are pack animals, we need the company and warmth of others.
    Babies want and need to be cuddled, not just left to loll in a glass tank.
    Ruth, the fact that your husband has grown to be a caring, considerate, well adjusted person is his own doing.
    I am happy that your happy but the fact remains, these cages are just an excuse to neglect baby.

  25. A West says: October 23, 200810:59 pm

    I want a sound-proof baby carrier for an as-yet born baby…A baby’s cry is nature’s way to get attention for the baby; however, there are times when baby’s personality is the culprit, not lack of parental care. I would build this bad-boy for those times, and, I’d like a mini-baby-coupe-carrier for on planes, etc.

  26. Tim says: December 12, 200812:26 pm

    24 – so i suppose you would never put your baby in a crib… which is fundamentally more or less a cage. or for that matter a play pin… cage. or when in the crib you climb in and sleep with your baby so they have 24/7 touch?? you’re obviously not an introvert or know any for that matter.

  27. Relationship Advice says: December 23, 20086:21 am

    25 – I agree with you for the most part, however, I’m curious to know what you mean by “there are times when baby’s personality is the culprit, not lack of parental care.”

  28. Tim says: December 23, 20086:36 am

    some babies are just whiners. look at adults. know any whiners?? met any whiners??

  29. Ernie Zimmermann says: June 11, 200910:41 pm

    I was also an Aircrib baby, courtesy of Uncle John and Aunt Audrey. My parents told the story of how the temperature alarm would go off night after night even though, when they checked, everything was fine. Finally, one of them stayed in my bedroom to watch. Once things got quiet, I found that if I kicked the side of the Aircrib hard enough, bells would ring and lights would flash, which was pretty entertaining for a bored little baby. No stimulation? Bah!

  30. Samantha says: September 12, 200911:41 pm

    Both my kids, children of the baby pictured in the aircrib photo above, (their biological father), were also reared in aircribs built by their grandfather, John Gray, Sr. And both are healthy, loving, creative, productive and bright adults today. The aircribs were wonderful! Both the children were born while we were living in student housing at Rutgers, so the response to the aircrib by other married students was positive. It was only from less open-minded and less intelligent people that we got any negative comments. Most of our friends at the University wanted the aricribs for teir kids too. As a Nurse Practitioner, I recommend them as a safe, sanitary and highly effective piece of equipment for infants and even toddlers.

  31. Tim says: September 13, 200912:22 pm

    It reminds me of the plastic box they put my son in when he was born. You know the one they move babies around in at the hospital right after they’re born?

  32. Firebrand38 says: September 13, 20091:02 pm

    Tim: The word you’re struggling for is incubator.

  33. Tim says: October 29, 200910:44 pm

    Yeah, except if I said incubator a number of #!*_*@ would confuse me with a chicken.

  34. Dick Ferguson says: June 11, 201010:52 pm

    Both the baby in the picture and Ernie (poster #29) are my cousins, and I can assure you both grew up to be successful and well rounded adults. And Uncle John (John Gray Sr) was one of the funniest people I have ever known.

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