Trampolines are a great way for kids and adults to have fun and get some physical exercise. But the history of trampolining dates back thousands of years. Let’s explore the rich history of the trampoline – a tool used for both fun and survival.
Ancient China, Iran and Egypt
Depictions of trampoline-like devices have been found at ancient archaeological sites in Iran, China and Egypt. Their uses are unknown, but historians believe ancient civilizations may have used these devices for religious ceremonies, celebrations, or to get a better view of their surroundings.
Later, trampolines would be found in Alaska where Eskimos would use them as both a sport activity and survival tool. These early trampolines were made of walrus skins. One person would sit in the middle of the skin, while several other people would hold the edges tightly and launch the seated person into the air. The Eskimos would use these primitive trampolines to scout animals from a safe distance, and as a fun recreational activity.
The Modern Trampoline
The origin of the modern trampoline is still a mystery, but the credit for its invention is often given to Du Trampolin. Du Trampolin was an artist who came up with the idea of using a trapeze net as a propulsion and landing device. Reportedly, Du Trampolin experimented with several different suspension systems before creating one that was a practical size for performances.
Later on in the early 1930s, George Nissen would create the trampoline (as we know it) in the basement of a local YMCA. The goal of Nissen’s trampoline was to help with tumbling and diving activities. He also used his trampoline to provide entertainment and get his audience involved in the newfound sport.
Nissen’s early trampoline was built with the help of some of the best trapeze artists in the world. He spent numerous hours threading the net’s long cords using javelin-head needs.
Eventually, Nissen would relocate his trampoline to the YMCA camp. Kids became curious about the new invention and naturally wanted to play on it. It was then that Nissen realized the trampoline could be used for more than just training trapeze artists and gymnasts. Working with Larry Griswold, a famous gymnast and Nissen’s partner, the two formed the Griswold-Nissen Trampoline and Tumbling Company. Thus, the modern trampoline was born.
Trampolines and World War II
The U.S. Navy Flight School developed a trampoline during World War II as a tool to train navigators and pilots. The trampolines were an excellent tool to desensitize pilots to turns and flips, and to eliminate their fear of heights. Aside from this, trampolines were used to improve balance and body control, and to strengthen muscles.
Later, NASA would use trampolines to prepare astronauts for life in space. Around this time, scientists discovered that rebounding was 68% more effective at strengthening muscles and using oxygen than treadmill workouts. Trampolining also got astronauts acquainted with the feeling of weightlessness and loss of gravity.
Trampolines have been used throughout history for recreational fun and as a survival tool. From early versions made of walrus skin to modern devices designed to improve athletic training, trampolines have come a long way over the centuries.