Origins of the Pogo Stick

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There are many toys that both kids and adults can play with and enjoy, but one of the most underrated toys is the pogo stick. If you don’t know, a pogo stick is a device that enables a person to jump higher. In order for the device to do so, the user would first need to place his or her feet on the footpads near the middle of the stick. Then, the user would have to hold the handle at the top before bending the needs and performing a jumping action. 

With the knees’ movements and the weight of the user, the pogo stick’s spring compresses and decompresses, and the decompression would then enable the user to jump higher than normal. While the pogo stick is a very simple toy or device to use, it can be very fun and exciting to play, especially if you are participating in an extreme sport called “Xpogo,” which is specifically designed for pogo players. To know more about how the pogo stick was invented and became popular, here are the origins of the pogo stick.

The History of the Pogo Stick

pogo stick

Before the creation of the pogo stick, there was already a device that was designed to allow people to jump higher, and this device is called the spring stilt or jumping stilt. The spring stilt is a type of stilt that has a leaf spring that is C-shaped or curved instead of the usual spiral design you would find in regular springs. The early version of spring stilts features springs that are made of metal, but the modern versions are made of fiberglass, a more durable but still flexible material.

Herrington’s Spring Stilts

The first spring stilt was patented in 1891 by American inventor George H. Herrington in Wichita, Kansas. However, the difference between Herrington’s spring stilts and modern spring stilts is that the former actually uses compression springs that have a spiral design. Interestingly, Herrington’s spring stilts look like a pogo stick with just one foot pad and without the two-hand handle. [1]

Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall’s Hopping Stilt

In 1920, two German inventors named Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall filed a patent for a device that served as an improved version of the “spring action hopping stilt.” As opposed to Herrington’s spring stilts, which require a person two use two stilts, with one for each foot, the improved hopping stilt is a single device that has two footpads. [1]

Hansburg’s Pogo Stick

pogo stick handle

Even though some people believe that the pogo stick was invented by the mentioned two German inventors, there are also those that speculate that an American toy and baby furniture designer named George Hansburg invented the pogo stick we are familiar with today. Hansburg filed a patent for a jumping stick that he called “pogo stick” in 1957. [1] This pogo stick features two handles for each hand and two footpads for each foot. Then, inside the pogo stick is a spiral spring that pushes and pulls the end of the stick whenever it compresses and decompresses.

The Evolution of the Pogo Stick

pogo stick footpads

The evolution of the pogo stick started with the creation of George Hansburg’s patented pogo stick. In 1919, the Gimble Brothers Department Store, a popular department store in New York (although the company started its operations in Indiana), asked Hansburg to design a jumping stick that was more durable or resilient than the wooden jumping sticks that the company had bought from Germany. 

There is no clear evidence as to how and where the wooden jumping sticks were bought by the Gimble Brothers Department store, but it is believed that those sticks were the ones that were invented by Max Pohlig and Ernst Gotschall. But the thing that is clear is that the company requested Hansburg to design a new jumping stick because the wooden jumping sticks didn’t last long and would rot during shipping due to being exposed to damp conditions. [2]

Hansburg then presented a pogo stick that was made of metal around the same year. Hansburg would further improve the design of his metal pogo stick by adding a dual handle so that both hands could hold onto the stick. This improved pogo stick would be patented in 1957.

The popularity of the pogo stick remained stagnant throughout the late 1950s and the 1960s. However, by the 1970s, the pogo stick became one of the top-selling toys in the market due to an effective marketing scheme of an Irish-Italian immigrant and marketer named Ryne Recchia, who promoted the pogo stick as a unique and versatile toy.

The Creation of Xpogo

performing a trick on a pogo stick

As pogo sticks became more and more popular in the United States and other countries, new tricks and stunts were popping up constantly during the 1990s and 2000s. One person who took pogo stick jumping to the extreme by performing tricks and stunts is Dave Armstrong, an enthusiast from Provo, Utah, that is widely considered today as the one responsible for popularizing extreme pogo, also known by many as Xpogo. 

Dave Armstrong started performing tricks with a pogo stick in 1999, and he would share pictures and videos of his tricks on a website he created called Xpogo.com. Soon after, the website would become known to other pogo stick enthusiasts, and these enthusiasts would begin to copy Armstrong’s tricks and introduce those to other people. [6]

Although extreme pogo had been around before Armstrong created the Xpogo.com website, it is through the website that the pioneers of the sport, like Nick Ryan, Rick George, and Fred Grzybowski, connected and established Xpogo as a legitimate extreme sport. These pioneers are also instrumental in the creation of the extreme pogo stick, a device that is specifically designed to be more durable while being able to carry the weight of an adult. The extreme pogo stick was introduced in 2004, which was also the same year that the first official pogo stick sporting event called Pogopalooza was created.

Pogopalooza

Pogopalooza 1, the first official pogo stick sporting event, was held at a parking lot in Nebraska during the summer of 2005. [6] There were only about seven participants in the event, and while Pogopalooza 1 was relatively small, it would eventually gain a bigger following in the next Pogopalooza events. By 2009, it was reported that extreme pogo had already grown into the hundreds. 

Pogopalooza 6, which was held in 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is regarded by pogo stick enthusiasts as the event that made Xpogo mainstream. Many news outlets and companies, like The Wall Street Journal, covered the said event, and it is through the media that Xpogo became more known to people around the world that aren’t familiar with extreme pogo stick jumping.

How Do You Use a Pogo Stick?

cartoon illustration of a kid on a pogo stick

Pogo sticks are very simple devices to use, but you would need to follow basic steps in using them so that you will be safe while jumping with the pogo stick. Here are the steps that you should follow to use a pogo stick properly.

Getting on the Pogo Stick

  1. Hold the pogo stick by its handle and stand it upright in front of you. There should be a few millimeters of distance between you and the pogo stick.
  2. Start placing one foot on the footpad. Then, place the pogo stick nearer to you and put your other foot on the unoccupied footpad.
  3. Begin balancing your body on the pogo stick. This step may be hard to do at first, so you may need to repeat the step multiple times until you are able to balance longer. You may need to do this step right next to a wall or a seat so that there is something that can stop you from falling to the ground.

Bouncing on the Pogo Stick

  1. To bounce on the pogo stick, you would have to press the footpads downwards by bending your knees and applying force toward your feet. When you are putting your second foot on the footpad, there is a tendency for the pogo stick’s spring to already be compressed, so you may already be pushed up in the air once your second foot is already on the footpad. [3]
  2. Be sure to control the direction of where the pogo stick lands after jumping by holding and turning the handle left or right. You may also be able to push forward or backward by placing your weight in the direction you want to go.
  3. To continue bouncing, you would need to press the footpads downwards once you have landed on the ground. The force you applied on the pogo stick ensures that the spring would be compressed and propel you upwards again.

Records Set with a Pogo Stick

robot on a pogo stick

Because of how popular pogo sticks are in today’s era, there are already millions of people that have pogo sticks that are used indoors and outdoors. However, there are a few experienced pogo stick users that were able to set records using the jumping device. Here is a list of records set with a pogo stick.

Highest Jump on a Pogo Stick

The highest jump on a pogo stick was accomplished by Henry Cabelus, who set the record in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on August 20, 2021. The height of the jump was 3.41 meters, and Cabelus was only 22 years old when he set this record during an Xpogo event. The previous record belonged to American professional pogo stick jumper Biff Hutchinson, who recorded 2.97 meters of height in pogo stick jumping during the Pogopalooza High Jump competition in Helsingborg, Sweden. [4]

Most Jumps on a Pogo Stick

Most Jumps on a Pogo Stick

The record for most jumps on a pogo stick was attempted by dozens of jumpers, but there were only a few that were able to set the record before they were beaten by other jumpers. Here is a list of previous and current record holders for the most jumps on a pogo stick. Take note that these records were done with five-minute breaks for every completed hour of non-stop pogo stick jumping. [5]

Record Holder

Number of Jumps

Duration

Date and Location

James A. Roumeliotis

206,864

20 hours and 13 minutes

July 29, 2011, at the Pogopalooza 8 in Costa Mesa, USA

James A. Roumeliotis

186,152

19 hours and 45 minutes

September 22 to 23, 2007, in Worcester, Massachusetts, USA

Gary Stewart

177,737

Unknown

May 25 to 26, 1990, in Huntington Beach, California, USA

Gary Stewart

130,077

Unknown

March 8 to 9, 1985, in Reading, Ohio, USA

Michael Barban

122,171

15 hours and 26 minutes

February 13, 1982, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA

Jeff Kane

120,715

16 hours and 12 minutes

June 9 to 10, 1980, in Oaklawn, Illinois, USA

Steve Ennis

100,013

16 hours and 15 minutes

April 1 to 2, 1977, in Chalfont, Pennsylvania, USA

Douglas K. Ziegler

80,080

11 hours and 5 minutes

1976 or 1977, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA

Longest Distance Jumped Using a Pogo Stick

Longest Distance Jumped Using a Pogo Stick

Besides the highest jump on a pogo stick, the longest distance jumped on a pogo stick is also a record that many pogo stick jumpers are trying to set or break. This record is set by pogo sticks jumping non-stop from one point to another. Some of the records that were set and broken lasted for about five to 12 hours. Here is a list of records that were set and broken for the longest distance jumped on a pogo stick. [5]

Record Holder

Distance

Duration

Date and Location

Jack Sexty

42.195 kilometers / 26.22 miles

16 hours and 24 minutes

April 6 to 7, 2014, at the Greater Manchester Marathon, UK

James A. Roumeliotis

37.36 kilometers / 23.22 miles

14 hours and 30 minutes

July 26, 2012, at the Pogopalooza 9 in Costa Mesa, California, USA

Ashrita Furman

37.18 kilometers / 23.11 miles

12 hours and 27 minutes

June 22, 1997, in New York, USA

Terry Cole

29 kilometers / 18 miles

7 hours and 15 minutes

April 5, 1997, in Leyton, London, UK

Ashrita Furman

25.7 kilometers / 16 miles

6 hours and 40 minutes

1993, in Mt. Fuji, Japan

Ashrita Furman

24.125 kilometers / 14.99 miles

5 hours and 33 minutes

May 25, 1991, in Seoul, South Korea

Ashrita Furman

21.02 kilometers / 13.06 miles

5 hours and 33 minutes

September 15, 1989, in New York, USA

Highest Jump on a Pogo Stick

Highest Jump on a Pogo Stick

Records for the highest jump on a pogo stick are also set and broken by professional pogo stick jumpers for various events and exhibitions. Take a look below for the list of record setters and holders for the highest jump on a pogo stick. [5]

Record Holder

Jump Length

Date and Location

Biff Hutchinson

2.97 meters / 9 feet and 9 inches

August 30, 2014, at the Pogopalooza High Jump competition in Helsingbor, Sweden

Dmitry Arsenyev

2.94 meters / 9 feet and 8 inches

July 1, 2014, in Montpelier, France

Biff Hutchinson

2.93 meters / 9 feet and 7 inches

July 28, 2013, at Pogopalooza 10 in New York, USA

Dan Mahoney

2.89 meters / 9 feet and 6.5 inches

August 21, 2010, at Pogopalooza 7 in Salt Lake City, USA

Dan Mahoney

2.59 meters / 8 feet and 6 inches

August 22, 2009, at Pogopalooza 6, in Schenley Plaza, Oakland, USA

David Barabé

2.42 meters / 8 feet

April 24, 2008, at the Université de Sherbrooke in Québec, Canada

Fred Grzybowski

2.23 meters / 7 feet in 6 inches

2007, at Pogopalooza 4 in Huntington Beach, California, USA

Does Pogo Stick Jumping Provide Good Exercise?

cartoon illustration of a man playing with a pogo stick

Because jumping on a pogo stick is a physical activity, many people argue that doing this activity can give your body good exercise. However, is pogo stick jumping an effective form of exercise, or is it an activity that can just make you sweat a lot after a few minutes or hours of jumping? Let us find out as we take a closer look at how pogo stick jumping can provide good exercise for our bodies.

Pogo Stick for Exercise

A pogo stick is effective in toning and strengthening specific muscles in the body. Some of these muscles can already be toned by regular exercise, but if you want your exercise routines to be more fun and exciting, then you might want to try pogo stick jumping. Here are a few of the muscles that a pogo stick can help strengthen.

  • Leg muscles – because you have to constantly apply force to your legs to make the pogo stick jump, it is obvious that your leg muscles will become stronger after hours of pogo stick jumping. However, whenever you land after jumping on a pogo stick, the impact can be hard on your knees and ankles, so you may have to control the height of your jump and the force you apply to your legs to have a safer and less painful time jumping. [7]
  • Back muscles – the muscles in your back also get a nice workout by pogo stick jumping, as applying weight on your back can help your body balance well on the pogo stick. Keeping your back straight is a great way to sustain balance on the pogo stick, and this position can help in toning different muscles in your back. But you may need to prevent your body from twisting side to side, or you will experience back pain.
  • Stomach muscles – if you want to tone your core, then pogo stick jumping may be a suitable activity for you to enjoy. Besides the back, the muscles on the front section of your body can also get a workout, particularly the stomach. The pressure or force that you apply on your legs would have to start at the stomach and hips, as you have to bend not only your knees but also your stomach whenever you are ready to jump using a pogo stick. This force or pressure can then allow the muscles in your stomach to become stronger.

Other Health Benefits of Pogo Stick Jumping

Besides toning and strengthening the muscles, there are also other benefits that you can get from simply jumping on a pogo stick for about 15 to 30 minutes every day. Here are the other health benefits of pogo stick jumping.

  • Strengthens your heart – jumping on a pogo stick can make you feel like you are running a 10K race or even a half marathon, depending on how long you are jumping. So, pogo stick jumping can help strengthen your heart and get some cardio every day, which is important to build if you don’t want to get easily tired from physical activities. [8]
  • Helps boost your mood – because of how fun it is to jump using a pogo stick, it could be said that the toy or device can help boost your mood and relieve stress. Jumping on a pogo stick can boost the production of serotonin, a hormone that can make you feel much happier.
  • Increases Vitamin D levels – pogo stick jumping can also help in boosting or increase the levels of Vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is one of the elements in your body that can regulate your mood, and it is also effective in preventing heart disease.

Interesting Facts about the Pogo Stick

  1. It is believed that the name for the stick, “pogo,” was derived from the two German inventors, Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall. The “po” in the name is taken from the first two letters of Pohlig, while the “go” is taken from the first two letters of Gottschall. [1]
  2. However, George Hansburg, the inventor of the metal pogo stick, said that the name “pogo” was derived from a Burmese girl with the same name. Hansburg saw this Burmese girl playing with a cheap and broken pogo stick. [9]
  3. There is a legend that the pogo stick was invented in the early 1900s, specifically many years before Pohlig, Gottschall, and Hansburg were considered the inventors of the said toy. According to the legend, the pogo stick was created by a Burmese man who had a daughter named Pogo. Because Pogo couldn’t bear the pain that her feet felt whenever she walked to the town’s temple, her father created jumping stilts so that Pogo would have a pain-free and comfortable experience going to the temple. [10]
  4. The first extreme pogo stick, which was created by the pioneers of Xpogo in 1999, has a jumping height that can reach up to 10 feet.
  5. The pogo dance, which is a type of dance where a person jumps up and down while remaining in a specific spot or moving around the area, is said to have been derived from the up-and-down motion of a person using a pogo stick. The pogo dance is often associated with the punk music scene, and some would even say that the dance was popularized by Sid Vicious, the vocalist of the English punk rock band Sex Pistols. [9]

Conclusion

The origins of the pogo stick may have different branches or paths, but it is important to remember all of the inventors and pioneers that have staked their claim as the creator of the pogo stick because of their significant contributions to the evolution of the device from a simple jumping stick to a toy that inspired an extreme sport and can provide several health benefits.

Today, the pogo stick can be called one of the most fun toys that both kids and adults can enjoy. In addition, it is also one of the most durable toys because of its simple but effective design to allow people of almost any weight to jump high.

Here are some key points to recap on the origins of the pogo stick:

  • The pogo stick is inspired by the jumping stilts that were invented by George H. Herrington in 1891. Using jumping stilts requires you to wear one for each of your feet, while you will only need one pogo stick for both of your feet.
  • There are two theories as to who truly invented the pogo stick. German inventors Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall are credited by some to be the creators of the pogo stick, while others have regarded George Hansburg as the inventor of the modern pogo stick.
  • The popularity of the pogo in the 1990s inspired the conception of extreme pogo, an extreme sport that involves using pogo sticks to perform stunts and tricks.

Those are all the things you need to know about the pogo stick and its origins. If you haven’t tried playing or using a pogo stick yet, then it may be time for you to do so. By trying a pogo stick, you will be able to experience for yourself the features and benefits that make it one of the most popular toys in the world.

References

[1] Inquisitive Toys. (2023, January 16). Who Invented the Pogo Stick? Inquisitive Toys. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://inquisitivetoys.com/who-invented-the-pogo-stick/

[2] Knutson, S. (2013, November 18). U.S. Fads Series: The Pogo Stick. InterExchange. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://www.interexchange.org/articles/career-training-usa/2013/11/18/u-s-fads-series-the-pogo-stick/

[3] Inquisitive Toys (2023, January 16). How To Use a Pogo Stick. Inquisitive Toys. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://inquisitivetoys.com/how-to-use-a-pogo-stick/

[4] Guinness World Records. (n.d.). Highest jump on a pogo stick. Guinness World Records. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/highest-jump-on-a-pogo-stick

[5] RecordHolders.org. (n.d.). Pogo Stick Jumping World Records. RecordHolders.org. Retrieved March 29, 2023, from http://www.recordholders.org/en/list/pogostick.html

[6] AllPogo. (n.d.). AllPogo History. AllPogo. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://allpogo.com/history/

[7] Thompson, V. (n.d.). What Muscles Do Pogo Sticks Exercise? AZCentral. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/muscles-pogo-sticks-exercise-20837.html

[8] Smith, A. (2019, May 1). Half a Dozen Health Benefits of Pogo Sticks. My Four and More. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://myfourandmore.com/pogo-stick-health-benefits/

[9] Hartston, W. (2014, May 21). Top 10 facts about pogo sticks. Daily Express. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/477098/Top-10-facts-about-pogo-sticks

[10] Reeves, H. (2001, August 26). The Way We Live Now: 8-26-01: Salient Facts: Pogo Sticks; Bouncing Back. The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/26/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-8-26-01-salient-facts-pogo-sticks-bouncing-back.html

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