|I thought it would be fitting to interrupt the normal content for a history lesson! Since the buzz around here centers on swing sets in all different forms, it would perhaps be interesting, even enlightening, to learn about where they came from and why we have them at all.
While it is impossible to determine when the first person tied a seat to a rope and swung themselves around like a pendulum (especially since we have images of swings and riders on pottery from Ancient Greece), we can learn a little about their development as America’s most recognized piece of playground equipment.
We know that by the time of the American Revolution, kids had developed the art of hanging rope and wood plank swings from their trees to get their daily dose of adrenaline. Most agree that the concept of swinging is the natural byproduct of kids having fun on barn ropes and pulleys. These moved out to the swimming hole where a well placed rope in an overhanging tree was enough to keep the kids busy for hours. As families made their way across the American prairies (where trees were sparse), swing sets made of wood became a popular way for frontier children to pass the time. Most agree that the concept of swinging is the natural byproduct of kids having fun on barn ropes and pulleys. These moved out to the swimming hole where a well placed rope in an overhanging tree was enough to keep the kids busy for hours.
The Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to increased urbanization among the working classes and, thus, a loss of extensive personal property. Kids had nowhere to roam and play like they used to. Therefore, the playset was birthed. Kids who had no natural foliage to climb or hills to scale, turned to their industrial imitations. As a result, a new industry was born. In 1912, the University of Virginia sponsored a teachers’ program that brought about the first complete playground and swingset package. The kids loved it, so the university made the plans public for other schools to build their own. By, at least, the late 1940s, companies such as Creative Playthings were mass producing wooden swingsets designed for the average home. Backyard swingsets and other play equipment literally exploded onto the market as returning WWII vets birthed a suburban Boomer generation. Swingsets, along with slides, seesaws, and jungle gyms (or “monkey bars” as they would later be called) became the standard means of childhood expression, and icons for generations of schoolchildren to come.