Trampolines Throughout History – From Toy to Tool

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Millions of people around the world enjoy the exercise and entertainment that a backyard trampoline can provide. From calorie burning jumps to core muscle building balancing exercises, there are more ways to get a workout while having fun on a trampoline than any other piece of sports equipment. But have you ever wondered how this rebounding marvel came to be? Here are some facts about the history of the trampoline and how it’s simple collection of trampoline parts work together to provide you with a once in a lifetime bouncing experience that you’ll never forget.

Have you ever seen trapeze artist perform in a circus? Swinging back and forth high above the big top, these highly trained gymnasts depend on the safety net below to keep them from a serious fall or injury if they were to miss the bar during one of their tricks. Back in the 1930’s a man named George Nissan was watching just such a performance when he was inspired to make the trampoline. He noticed that when the trapeze artists dismounted into the safety net, the elasticity of the net would send them back up into the air for one last flip or trick before they swung onto the ground.

Nissan thought that it would be wonderful if he could construct a trampoline mat that would provide this same bouncing ability to the athletes over and over again. That way, gymnasts could work on their flips, twists, and jumps without needing to climb back up and down the tall trapeze tower. Nissan assembled an iron frame and a canvas trampoline mat, and attached the two together with large metal springs. The result was the first modern trampoline, and even trampolines made commercially today still follow this simple design.

By the 1940’s Nissan and his business partner were happily manufacturing trampolines out of their Cedar Rapids, Iowa factory, and thousands of children were busy bouncing around in their yards and school gyms. Then, when World War II broke out a few years later, the Armed Forces placed a big order for trampolines. They discovered that these toys could be useful tools for training pilots and navigators how to respond quickly in inverted, weightless situations. Those who were afraid of heights or falling could be taught to jump on the trampoline, and soon their fears were greatly reduced. It’s amazing to think how many uses this simple machine actually has.

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