Vintage Baby Racing Photos That Are Both Adorable And Troubling

Published August 8, 2017
Babies Crawling Finish Line
Babies crawl toward a mobile row of stuffed rabbits during the eighth annual Diaper Derby. July 1946.Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Diaper Derby Racing
An infant crawls toward a toy train held by a parent, as other babies remain at the starting gate, which features nickname signs for each baby. August 22, 1955.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Starting Gate Babies
Two babies prepare to crawl. Date unspecified. Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Baby On A Big Bottle
The baby champion of the annual Diaper Derby. 1950.Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Baby Crying
A baby cries during the race. July 1946.Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Baby Racing
Babies are encouraged to crawl as fast as they can by their mothers at the annual Diaper Derby competition. Date unspecified.Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Babies Break
Babies drink from a huge bottle during the annual Diaper Derby competition. 1953. Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Babies With A Dog
The participants of the annual Diaper Derby competition take a break with a dog. Date unspecified.Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Finish Baby
A participant reaches the finish line. Date unspecified. Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Babies Crawling Towards Finish Line
Babies head toward the finish line. July 1946.Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image.

Baby In Arms Of Mother
Eleven-month-old Peter Ruttenberg poses with his mother after winning the Diaper Derby. 1947.Keystone/FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Baby Running
"Donut Dan" stands before the finish line. July 1946.Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images.

Babies On Steps
Mothers and their babies at the annual Diaper Derby competition. Date unspecified.Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Babies Practising For Race
Babies train for the Diaper Derby at the New York Foundling home, a foster care and adoptions services provider. 1949. Bettmann/Getty Images

Baby With A Toy
A contestant looks at some of the stuffed animals on the finish line. July 1946.Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Baby With Nurse
A nurse weighs one of the competitors. 1937.Irving Haberman/IH Images/Getty Images

Parents And Babies
A group of infants crawl from the starting gate to their parents, holding toys. August 22, 1955.Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Baby Napping
A baby rests during the annual Diaper Derby. Date unspecified.Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Starting Gate Baby Standing
A mother prepares her baby for the race. Date unspecified.Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Image

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, baby racing was a surprisingly popular sport. In fact, an annual baby racing competition, known as Diaper Derby, was sponsored by the National Institute of Diaper Services and held at a fairground in New Jersey's Palisades Park each year between 1946 and 1955 (a similar event takes place today).

No special talents were required to participate in the rather bizarre race that has since been dubbed as the slowest two minutes in sports. Diaper-clad tots were simply lined at a starting gate by their parents, usually mothers, and once the race began, were urged to crawl to the finish line.

Of course, babies are a fickle lot, so the finish line was made to look as enticing as possible; it was lined with stuffed bears, bunnies, dogs, and other such animals that babies have an affinity for.

But no matter who reached the finish line first, there were no losers in this adorable competition. Almost every baby got to take home the stuffed animal he or she was crawling towards.

However, the champion of the crawling race got to take home more than just a toy. The overall winner received a $50 savings bond and a special crown. However, it is worth noting that any baby that got up and walked was immediately disqualified. After all, discipline has to start at a young age.

Furthermore, to make things more interesting, each baby participating in the race had a special nickname assigned to him or her. For example, one baby was nicknamed "Donut Dan" while another went by the name "Pretzel Bender."

Clearly, as a general rule, Diaper Derbies were kind of ridiculous. Sometimes babies fell asleep before reaching the finish line while other times they just stood up and walked off, not giving a damn about being disqualified.

And it wasn’t just the babies who had it tough. Their mothers often had to wait for hours for the race to finish as various unpredictable delays would further slow down the slowest race in the world.

But it was all worth it in the end. At least for the champion. Or rather, the champion’s parents.


After this look at baby racing, check out some of the weirdest Olympic events of decades past. Then, read up on the old-school pastime of ostrich racing.

Laura Martisiute
Laura is a freelance writer based in Tramore, Ireland. In her spare time, she likes to explore secret beaches, pet cats, and read.