The Baby Calculator As A Symbol Of 1920s Technological And Social Progress

source: eBay

Imagine stepping back into your grandparents’ attic, sifting through boxes filled with sepia-toned photographs and quaint gadgets from the Roaring Twenties. Among these treasures, one can identify a small thing called a “baby calculator,” which is a piece of equipment left from the period of the approach to reproductive health in modern society. This device, a rather humble tool by today’s measure, allows for a glimpse into the family planning strategies of the previous generations, and how people of the past tackled what today is considered common knowledge.

The baby calculator was an innovation of the 1920s, which was a device that gave couples an anticipated time of birth depending on the menstrual period. Oftentimes made of metal or a durable cardboard material, it had what appeared to be control knobs and buttons for the user to attempt to gain a view into the future. The device epitomized the culture of the time which was based on the principles of mechanization and automation of various activities, including the most intimate ones.

source: Made-in-Chicago Museum

In the context of major social transformations that took place after the period of First World War, the baby calculator was not only a practical tool; it was an embodiment of the progressive period that aimed at the integration of science into the daily lives of an average person. It appeared at a time when women’s place in the society was slowly changing, medicine was slowly learning about reproductive health, and people became more willing to discuss intimate issues. This context gives the baby calculator not only the status of the antique but also the status of the cultural object that reveals changes in the perception of family planning.

In addition to its applicative purpose, the baby calculator also had didactic function: it explained how the conception occurred and how the baby is born in the time when such information was not easily obtainable. It assisted in closing the gaps in the society’s perception and laid the groundwork for further elaborative discourse and advancements in the women’s health care, and shaped the way the subject was approached in the following years.

source: eBay

Today, baby calculators are cherished by collectors and historians as a reminder of the previous generations’ creativity. They are not just valued for the historical context that they portray but rather for the ability to narrate a story of people, of the world and capturing a particular time when the world was in the process of transformation.

Thus, it can be stated that the baby calculator of the 1920s is not just a forgotten relic, but rather a symbol of the humanity’s ongoing process of discovery and control over life. Thus, it gives us a chance to understand how the scientific knowledge and social attitudes have evolved and how the past influences the present and the future.