1900-1950


#TBT Constructive Play, c. 1917

“The value of constructive play as a factor of development is an unworked educational mine”  Edgar James Swift, 1917 In Manual training — Play problems; constructive work for boys and girls based on the play interest, William S. Marten extols the virtues of constructive play (basically building stuff from tops to ‘roller coasters’).  In keeping with Victorian notions of play as an element of social control and reform, constructive play is said to counter ‘destructive play’ tendencies. Our philosophy of play has changed since then, but the illustrations and how-tos in the book for playful items like kaleidoscopes, spinning tops, swings, stilts and slingshots are charming, and Marten’s recommendation of collecting scrap materials for constructive play prefigures the adventure playground as well as the modern idea of the Scrap Store (which I wish I saw on more playgrounds!). See the whole book at the PublicDomainReview, original source the Library of Congress, and – Read the rest…


#TBT Playground on the Prairie, Art...

On this #ThrowbackThursday I am absolutely enchanted by the geometry of metal slide and human form in this 1953 photograph - Read the rest...

Depression-Era Car Seat Swing

And reminding us that play can be made from anything, a depression-era image of kids on a swing made from - Read the rest...

Vintage Playgrounds of Seattle, Was...

Many thanks to Justin for alerting me to the great flickr set from the City of Seattle’s Municipal Archives, “Seattle - Read the rest...

Playground in Boston Tenement Alley...

Compare Myers’ work to the tenement playground in a Boston alley, photographed by the great Lewis Hine, c. 1909. Via - Read the rest...

The Playground Paintings of Jerome ...

[Jumping right in to Throwback Thursday since I am in the middle of relocating my laboratory to a new place - Read the rest...

Girl on a Swing, Pitt St., New York...

Ahh, playground risk…look how high! And she’s standing up! For throwback Thursday, Walter Rosenblum’s Girl on a Swing Pitt St., New - Read the rest...

Vintage Swing for Fifteen! Bloomsb...

TBT Swing for Fifteen! From a delightful set of images of play pre-Health and Safety regs at the Daily Mail.

Antique Playground Slide, Hanscom P...

An early twentieth century double slide, single stair system. I’d love to see this recreated with the support as a - Read the rest...

Rooftop Playground, Farmers’ Trad...

Clearly I need to stop this and get back to science but just one more…the rooftop playground of the Auckland, New - Read the rest...

Rooftop Playground, Crescent Depart...

Another antique rooftop playground…this time at the Crescent Department Store in Spokane, Washington c. 1910. So far this is looking - Read the rest...

Indoor Rooftop Playground, Capwell ...

A much earlier example is this 1912 indoor rooftop playground, complete with swings, slides, and sandbox, atop the Capwell Department - Read the rest...

Vintage Playground Equipment Catalo...

For Throwback Thursday, thanks to reader Mike for letting me know about the great vintage playground equipment manuals archived at - Read the rest...

Honolulu's First Playgrounds

This fascinating image of local context (tiki bar! banana stall!) in an early playground comes from an interesting post on - Read the rest...

A Vintage Playground Slide Mystery ...

Reader Sarah has also gotten in touch, hoping someone can help her with the history of her vintage wooden slide. - Read the rest...

World's First Playground Swing, say...

  So last year the Daily Mail ran a piece asserting that they had photos of the ‘world’s first playground - Read the rest...

Edgar Miller Animal Court Update!

There is a different sort of animalia in Chicago: the beautiful Edgar Miller sculptures at the WPA-era Jane Addams housing - Read the rest...

White House Playground, c. 1933

The buzz over the movie The Butler reminded me of the unnamed domestic worker pictured in the first of these views of - Read the rest...

Have you seen Traveling Rings?

“Traveling Rings are a special type of fitness equipment which normally have 8-10 steel rings suspended by chains, each of - Read the rest...

Rooftop Sand Table, New York City, ...

Keeping the play at ‘hand’ level for sight-impaired children at the New York Association of the Blind, c. 1917. From - Read the rest...

SeeSaw Playground, Korea, 1931

[Beautiful vintage photo from National Geographic, by W. Robert Moore, of play in Korean c. 1931] We have come to - Read the rest...

Early Edible Schoolyards and Loose ...

I don’t talk much about the Edible Schoolyard movement on the blog, thought it has obvious and strong overlaps with - Read the rest...