So many sports evolved gradually from one form to another, but trampoline -both the apparatus and the sport- are the product of one man's imagination. That should be George Nissan, who was inspired by a 1930 visit to the circus as a teenager. When the aerialists dropped to the net below them, he saw them bounce and thought that would be fun ...if the bouncing could continue. Nissen's granddaughter Dian tells his story.
Nissen continued to pursue his dream in college, where he teamed with his gymnastics coach Larry Griswald to produce the first viable prototype in 1934 made with angle iron, canvas and inner tubes to give it that oh-so important bounce. The rubber parts were later replaced with metal springs for durability and strength.
The duo persisted with their invention by promoting its uses with children and athletes. As popularity soared, they started the Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company in 1942. Griswold was dropped from the business name after the gymnastics coach later left the business to pursue a solo career in acrobatics, diving and entertainment.
“My father knew he was on to something,” Dian says. “He took it to a YMCA camp to try it out and the kids loved it. They wouldn’t even get off it to go to the pool.”
Read about the invention of the trampoline, and Nissen's other contributions to the sport at Smithsonian.