Last year while researching for my post, Unique Merry-Go-Rounds, I happened upon information and fascinating images of early playground equipment. The images show the fearless freedom of children who didn't have parents or guardians watching their every move. Although yesteryear was fraught with the danger of falling off the high playground structures of the day, kids crawled, hung and swung to their heart's content - or until their mother yelled out that it was time to come home for supper, or bed.
It's time to confess however, that I was caught royally when I read a blogpost that showed three extremely long boards with children sitting on them with the caption that, "Historians have discovered photos of what's thought to be the world's first children's slide." At first I believed them since the source was the trusted bbc.co.uk. Then the same story was published in the Daily Mail. When I checked Wikipedia, however, I discovered that the claim seemed to come from a playground manufacturing company and that the information was disputed by people who knew of existing playground slides.
One of those earlier slides was presented in the Wikipedia article which showed this image taken in 1921 of school children on a slide at the East Texas State Normal College. Historically, Normal School/College was a training school for teachers and the children in the photograph are under the care of teachers-in-training.
Schoolchildren on a slide at the East Texas State Normal College Training School in 1921
East Texas State Normal College. Source: Wikipedia.
This next photograph was taken in March 1917 showing play-time at the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee, Oklahoma. The caption insists that the photos were not posed and that the children in their care have a great deal of freedom. Why do you think someone felt it important enough to put on the caption?
March 1917, Play-time at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Children have a great deal of freedom (Ellis report). Photos were not posed. Location: Muskogee, Oklahoma / Lewis W. Hine. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
And what about this triple slide photographed in 1917 at Taylor Playground, New Orleans, Louisiana. It's another image from Wikimedia Commons and shows that playground slides must have been around for several years to show this level of expertise.
|Taylor Playground, New Orleans, 1917, with triple slide. Source: Wikimedia Commons
In the first couple decades of the 20th century many large department city stores had inside, or rooftop, playgrounds featuring slides and merry-go-rounds. I wanted to show you a couple examples, but couldn't find one that wasn't copyrighted. These store playgrounds existed so that moms could shop without the distraction of children.
On the topic of elaborate slides, I was quite surprised when my research turned up the 1932 Fun-Ful Playground Equipment catalog by Hill-Standard Co. I thought tube slides were a recent invention - probably because all the ones I've seen have been made with plastic, but the catalog says this tunnel slide was one of their recent numbers.
Tunnel Slide from the 1932 Fun Ful Playground Equipment Catalog. Source: Archive.org
Spiral Slide from the 1932 Fun Ful Playground
Equipment Catalog. Source: Archive.org
From the same Fun-Ful catalog comes this image of a Spiral Slide. Upon seeing it, my first thought was that if this was 8-10 yrs down the road, the steel would have gone into the making of munitions rather than playground equipment.
For those interested, the Fun-Ful catalog is available online as a PDF through archive.org.
All these pictures prove to me that the slide has been around a lot longer than 1922 as mentioned at the top of this post. It also proves that there is a lot of information on the internet and you must check several sources for accuracy. In this case, two sources were inaccurate and I stress how important it was to find that third source which opened the door to many more.
To finish off, here's a fun pic I found in the Library of Congress online Prints and Photographs Division. It's Sistie and 'Buzzie' Dall, children of Mr. and Mrs. Dall, and grandchildren of President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt, playing on equipment in the White House playground. Doesn't Sistie look like she's enjoying herself?
|1933, First photograph of Roosevelt Grandchildren at play on White House grounds. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington DC
A slide can be as simple as a board, and as elaborate as those found in the biggest waterpark. Do you like to slide? Care to share?
Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at: