World’s First Playground Slide, says the Daily Mail? Not.

The Daily Mail and BBC have published these fascinating vintage photos (copyright Geoff Robinson) of a slide installed in Wicksteed Park, Kettering, Northamptonshire in 1922.  They are wonderful historical images, but are NOT the world’s first children’s slides.

The journalists and their play historian Linden Groves might want to take a look at the rooftop playground slide in New York in 1900, or the young Tsarevich’s slide at Tsarskoe Seloe (1910), or the forty-five foot long waxed wooden slide at the Smith Memorial Playground in Philadelphia which was installed in 1904 (renovated and reopened in 2005), or the c. 1905 Coney Island Slide.  They might even perhaps have consulted Playground Technique and Playcraft (original copyright 1909, googlebooks has fulltext of the second, 1913 edition), which gives full instructions for constructing your own, metal (not planks of wood, like at Wicksteed…ooh the splinters!) playground slide.

(Thanks to reader Michael for the alert on this!) The notion that Wicksteed made the first playground slide is just one of many inaccuracies in the wikipedia articles related to play and playgrounds.  I’ve been hoping for some time to have a chance to address these, but can’t seem to get to it…if you’d like to help save the world from more bad playground history by providing some wiki editing get in touch!


7 Responses to “World’s First Playground Slide, says the Daily Mail? Not.”

  1. Sarah O'Leary said:

    I own a wooden playground slide that was manufactured by the Hill-Standard Company of Anderson, IN as part of the Fun-Ful Playground Equipment line. I believe it is actually even older than the one credited by the Daily Mail! I’d be happy to send you photos of it if you’d like to help me guess its age. The best we’ve been able to do is pre-1920s, when Hill-Standard switched to metal. (Our slide is wooden with wrought iron hand guides).

    November 03, 2013 at 3:43 pm

  2. World's First Playground Swing, says the Daily Mail? Not. (Again!) | Playscapes said:

    […] last year the Daily Mail ran a piece asserting that they had photos of the ‘world’s first playground …, as invented by Charles Wicksteed.  This year they’re at it again, claiming that his swings […]

    September 26, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  3. Bjorn Button said:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    April 24, 2012 at 2:54 pm

  4. arcady said:

    It is just your luck Deirdre, that I was even now preparing a teen-related post! Thanks for your interest in that aspect of play design, as I hope to post more in that arena in the future. Do let me know of anything you find that might be of interest.

    April 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm

  5. DeePee said:

    Like outdoorchildren comment, I have been a fan of this blog too and love the interesting facts and playgrounds you post. I am a landscape architect with a particular interest in playgrounds, particularly teenage play spaces so if you find anything on them, Id love to see them. Once again keep up the good work, Deirdre Prince

    April 19, 2012 at 10:20 am

  6. arcady said:

    I can't speak particularly to Wicksteed's influence in the UK but in the US the Fun-ful company was showing far more elaborate examples of slides in their 1925 catalog, which you can find at the Smithsonian (excerpts are on the blog). Certainly the media overhypes these things, but pre-1922 slide examples are readily available from even a cursory google search.

    April 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

  7. outdoorchildren said:

    Hello! I've admired your blog for a long time and so have been meaning to get in touch – this seems like a good time. Yes, I completely agree that the media's treatment of my Wicksteed research has been rather gung ho today! My feeling is that Charles Wicksteed was instrumental in pushing slides from ad hoc, bespoke items to off-the-peg catalogue items, but that slides of course existed before then. Thanks very much for sharing your lovely examples. Do take a look at my site – Perhaps we could collaborate some time, perhaps when I'm covering something that you disapprove of less?!
    best wishes
    Linden Groves

    April 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm

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