Tuesday, December 26th, 2006
Baby Patent History: The First Machine for Exercising Children
In 1847, George W. Tuttle received a patent for a "Machine for Exercising Children," or "baby jumper" for short. His jumper is similar in intent to today’s versions, but with some noticeable variations in implementation.
His invention starts with a ceiling hook which suspends an "elastic India rubber spring of considerable stiffness." The spring is hidden away, wrapped in an "ornamental tapestry" (translation: a cloth sheath). A looped cord hangs down connecting the spring to a metal hoop. The height of the jumper is adjusted by lengthening or shortening the looped cord.
The novelty of this design is found in a baby’s jacket which hangs from the hoop. You button your little darling into the jacket, and snap up a Onesie-style length of cloth around your baby’s bottom. Your baby literally hangs inside this jacket, like a wayward parachutist dangling from a tree.
Tuttle wrote, "The effect is that as the child touches the ground or floor with its foot, the elasticity of the spring causes it [your baby] to bounce up to turn around and move in different ways to its great delight and without the possibility of receiving injury."
Incidentally, in 2006, Canada issued voluntary manufacturer guidelines for jumpers, and has published safety tips for baby jumpers due to reports of injuries and mechanical failures. The U.S. does not appear to have established guidelines.
Tuttle noted that "every part of the jumper may be highly ornamented and thus become a beautiful article of furniture."
Imagine that. If this baby jumper was sold today, you would pay $40 for the jumper and $50 on assorted decorations, baby toys and noise makers to hang from the contraption. Of course, you could make do with the jump jacket which ships with the product, but wouldn’t you want to spend $300 on a complete wardrobe so that your little one has a different exercise outfit for every day of the week?
Three years after this patent was awarded, the April 27, 1850 issue of Scientific American included a note about this invention which had hit the retail market.
"The Baby-Jumper is an American invention that is having a great sale in England. The inventor has a shop in the Strand, and in his window are specimens of the jumping machine, and also a very beautiful wax model of a child, which is suspended in the Baby-Jumper, and by the action of a spiral spring, the model baby jumps from morn till eve, to the infinite amusement of parents, young and old, and blushing misses and their sweethearts, as they join the crowd in front of the window."