Saturday, July 28, 2018

The first playground slide

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In the early 20th century Charles Wicksteed owned a company that made drills, saws and gearboxes. In 1921, to celebrate the end of WWI, he took pipes from his factory and used them to build swings in a park in Kettering, England.

A year later he introduced the world's first playground slide to the park. It stood 12 feet tall and featured polished boards that could be slid down.

Wicksteed's playgrounds were a success, and he spun off a company Wicksteed Playscapes to design and build playgrounds. That company is still in business, easily making it the oldest company in the world dedicated to creating playgrounds. In the words of Charles Wicksteed:
I came to the conclusion the great mistake so many private benefactors and public bodies make is this: they lay out a beautiful Park to sit in, and look at, but they do not realise that the people want more than this, they want something doing. And those who cannot play themselves, enjoy looking at those who can. The Play Ground should not be put in a corner behind railings, but in a conspicuous and beautiful part of a Park, free to all, where people can enjoy the play and charming scenery at the same time; where mothers can sit, while they are looking on and caring for their children.

My Play Ground is not confined to boys or girls, or old or young, it is open to all. I have seen a dozen women of forty years of age on the Plank Swing together, and enjoying it as much as the children. I have also seen old ladies of 80 go down the slides. It is a good thing to have plenty of variety and then no one tires.

I used to be told how boys abused everything and what a disgraceful thing it was for two men to swing together on the same swing. So I made up my mind it would be far easier for me, as an engineer, to make the Playthings so strong that they could not be broken, rather than try to reform the users. In this I have succeeded without disturbing the delicate balance, so that the youngest child alone can operate any of the playthings.

Charles Wicksteed

Found via La Boite Verte.

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