Mothers and babies around the world enjoy the soothing, bouncing motion of an ingenious swing known as the Jolly Jumper, invented by Olivia Poole in 1910.
Poole was born by the name of Susan Olivia Davis in 1889. She grew up on the White Earth Indian Reserve in Minnesota. She was part Ojibway – or Chippeway – and as a child she became familiar with tribal customs, practices and activities. One of the practices she became familiar with was the way that women would strap their babies to cradle boards. This tidy, secure and portable package was called a “papoose.”
While working in the fields, Poole observed, mothers would often hang their papooses on a tree branch from long, sturdy, leather straps and give the branch a slight tug to produce a soft bouncing motion. The babies enjoyed this very much; often it soothed them and helped curb fussing and crying.
A talented pianist, Poole went on to study music at Manitoba, Canada’s, Brandon College. She married and had her first child, Joseph, in 1910. That’s when she recalled the bouncing papoose concept and began to assemble a swing for her son that would reproduce this motion.
She used a broom handle for a suspension bar and a cloth diaper for a harness, and she had a blacksmith create a soft-action steel spring. The swing allowed an infant to sink low enough so that his toes could reach the ground, allowing him to propel himself upward. This helped him not only to entertain himself, but also to develop his muscles.
The swing was very effective, and Poole used it to soothe each of her seven children. She moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband in 1942 and before long she was making swings for her grandchildren.
In 1948 her family convinced her that the swing, which she had dubbed “The Jolly Jumper,” should be commercialized. She readied the swing for production that year and, with the help of her first-born son, was awarded a patent on the device in 1957 (Canada patent No. 568 775). She established Poole Manufacturing Co., Ltd., in British Columbia to manufacture Jolly Jumpers and was soon enjoying sales worldwide.
Poole died in 1975, but her Jolly Jumpers are still being sold today.