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c. 1940s - 1950s

Baby racing

The great 'Diaper Derbies' of the 1940s and 50s

In March this year, ESPN posted a clip of the halftime entertainment at the ACC Men’s Basketball tournament (Pittsburgh vs. Boston College). Since then, the clip has received more than 100k comments. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Welcome to the magnetic power of Baby Racing.

But any claims that ESPN were showcasing any kind of new sport were in fact, as these pictures show, entirely without foundation. Because, were you born during the 1940s or 50s, there is every chance you might have found your infant self competing in any number of Diaper Derbies.

Between 1946 and 1955, an annual competition was held at Palisades Park, New Jersey — at which each of these pictures was taken.

The event was not backed by any of the nation’s significant sporting institutions, but rather by the then National Institute of Diaper Services (founded in 1938).

What did the race involve? The same as any other athletic sprint — except that the finish line was enhanced with all manner of attractions to entice the competitors to keep on crawling- toy cats, dogs, rabbits, bears and animals of every other description. 

Important note — the crawling was mandatory — if your offspring toddled onto two legs, they were immediately disqualified (if they noticed). If and when the babies reached the finish line, the stuffed toy of their choice was theirs to keep. 

And for the overall winner? A savings bond for fifty bucks. And a crown.

Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images
Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Hulton Archive / Getty Images
Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images
Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images
Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images
Keystone-France / Gamma-Rapho / Getty Images
Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images
Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

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