For reasons that are lost in the dustbin of my memory, The Four-Year-Old became intensely interested in wheelchairs about a month or two ago.
“When did they invent wheelchairs?” The Four-Year-Old asked while we walking into Kohl’s one day. Fortunately that particular Kohl’s has excellent 3G reception, so I was able to Ask the iPhone without too much delay.
If my source can be believed, the first wheelchair was custom-built in 1595 for Phillip II of Spain. Some 70 years later, a paraplegic watchmaker named Stephen Farfler built himself a self-propelling chair on a three-wheel chassis. (What is it with early mobile vehicle inventors and the three-wheel chassis?)
Wheelchairs didn’t hit the big time though until 1783, when John Dawson introduced the Bath chair, which he named after his hometown of Bath, England. Although the three-wheeled chair (again with the three wheels!) reportedly wasn’t that comfortable, sales were brisk. The demand for wheelchairs combined with the discomfort of sitting in a Bath chair for long periods of time prompted a string of improvements to the basic design–a pattern of tinkering that ultimately led to the wheelchair as we know it today.
Fascinating though all that may be, turns out what The Four-Year-Old really wanted to know was, “Do cats have wheelchairs?”
Bunnies do well in wheelchairs too, btw.