The Giant Stride remains a popular topic on Preservation in Pink, and it brings a smile to my face when a reader sends along a “newly discovered” giant stride or shares a story. Today’s giant stride sits in City Park on Highway 20 in Hines, Oregon. Zoom in and you’ll see that the chains/ladders are still in operation.
It finally happened: a functioning giant stride has been found on an active playground. Raina Regan, fellow preservationist, found this giant stride in Winamac City Park in Winamac, Indiana.
According to Raina, the park dates to at least 1923, if not earlier. And the giant stride proved to be quite the strain on arm muscles, but many kids were using it. Hooray! Check out these photographs, all taken by Raina.
This giant stride is similar to the 1926 US patent, though as is the case for many, it is not exact. I’d be interested to see if there are identifying marks as to the manufacturing company and what other details can date this apparatus. Obviously, Winamac City Park is now on my list of places to visit in life.
If you come across more in your travels, I’d be delighted to hear about it and to see photographs!
If you love playgrounds, check out the Preservation Nation blog for my intro to the summer playground series.
As mentioned, the annual Society for Industrial Archeology meeting was held in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis this year. The annual meeting/conference is typically a day of tours on Friday and a day of paper sessions on Saturday, with receptions and additional tours on Thursday and Sunday. Well organized, welcoming, interesting and fun, this year was no exception. Let me recap, starting today with an overview of the SIA conference. First and foremost, St. Paul and Minneapolis are great. And yes, “Minnesota Nice” is an apt description of my time there.
Based in the lovely city of St. Paul, a welcoming reception on Thursday greeted everyone with good food, drinks, mingling and a lecture about local history.
And best of all about the welcoming reception is that I finally got to meet Raina Regan, a long time social media friend. It’s funny how you can meet someone for the first time but feel like you’ve actually known each other much longer. Oh, the powers of social media. Aside from historic preservation, we bond over our love of cat photography.
For Friday’s tour I opted for the Mighty Mississippi tour, which took us up and down the Mississippi River to gaze at (and learn about) the beautiful bridge stock that Minnesota is lucky to call its own. The tour itself deserves its own post, but here’s a preview.
Saturday was the paper sessions, held in the St. Paul Hotel. From bridges to industrial communities to bordellos to mills and mines, the papers were informative and interesting. I always love giving a presentation, and I hope my audience enjoyed the topic as much I did. Considering it was right after lunch, playgrounds (recess!) were the perfect topic for that hour.
A Saturday banquet was held in the Wabasha Street Caves, once home to speakeasies in the 1930s. But before that, the caves were hollowed out by mining for silica in the mid 1800s. It’s a neat place and the guide shared ghost stories with us.
It’s always great to see familiar faces, to meet new people to exchange ideas between our fields. After all, this is a conference that attracts preservationists and engineers and everyone in between. The SIA is a wonderful crowd and I thank them yet again for a great time in a new place.
Later this week look for more about the Friday tour, Minneapolis adventures and much more.
The Society for Industrial Archeology is a diverse group of members, interested in industrial heritage, manufacturing, the built environment, bridges, transportation and more. In its own words:
The Society for Industrial Archeology was formed in 1971 to promote the study, appreciation, and preservation of the physical survivals of our industrial and technological past. The word “archeology” underscores the society’s principal concern with the physical evidence of industry and technology-the study, interpretation, and preservation of historically significant sites, structures, buildings, artifacts, industrial processes, bridges, railroads, canals, landscapes, and communities.
Each year the SIA meets for an annual meeting, field sessions and paper sessions. I had the privilege to attend the SIA 2010 in Colorado Springs. Read Parts One, Two, Three, Four. This year the SIA is meeting in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. After a few years hiatus, I’m excited to be attending the conference and honored to be presenting about a topic dear to my heart and my preservation interests: The Giant Stride.
My research on the giant stride started as a paper in my graduate school class titled “History on the Land” taught by Bob McCullough (one of the best classes of my entire education). This is a playground apparatus that you will seldom find on playgrounds now due to safety regulations. However, if I found one I’d give it a try!
As you can read in the abstract booklet, my presentation is as follows:
INDUSTRY ON THE PLAYGROUND: MANUFACTURING AND DEVELOPING THE GIANT STRIDE
The American playground movement of the early twentieth century focused on the health, social habits, and organic strength of children, manifesting itself in the tall, challenging playground equipment comprised of gymnasiums, ladders, poles, merry-go-rounds, swings and including one particular apparatus referred to as the “giant stride.” Best described as a tall pole with a rotating cap from which long ropes hung, children held on to the ropes and ran in circles around the pole fast enough for their feet to leave the ground as if they were flying. Like the other apparatus elements, the giant stride required strength and would look quite unfamiliar on today’s playgrounds. The giant stride stands as a good example of the collaboration between manufacturing advances, social and health trends of the early twentieth century, and do-it-yourself imitations: all contributing to the shared history of technology and resourcefulness.
Despite the popularity of the giant stride, it faded from the playground scene due to safety regulations; few remain in existence today. The giant stride experienced its greatest evolution and popularity in the first decades of the twentieth century. Though its origins remain uncertain, primitive versions appear in publications from late nineteenth century England. In the United States, its ubiquitous use on playgrounds is well documented in 1909-1929 issues of the periodical, The Playground, and its development thoroughly illustrated by United States Patents from 1904-1928.
Advances to the giant stride followed two patterns: manufactured and homemade. Manufacturers focused on function of the apparatus, specifically the revolving head or cap, the ropes or ladders (i.e. handles), and promoted the hot drip galvanized steel used in the equipment. More than one company manufactured the giant stride and variations of it. Companies include the Medart Manufacturing Company, Giant Manufacturing Company and the National Playground Apparatus Corporation, among others. While manufacturing advances continued to improve the giant stride, not everyone could afford the steel apparatus. To remedy that factor, people employed their own creativity and constructed homemade giant strides using materials such as wood poles, wagon wheels and rope.
This presentation will include a discussion of the giant stride’s development within the social and industrial context, complemented with historic images, advertisements, patents and present day photographs.
Aside from being excited for my own paper, the panelists on all sessions have many familiar and respected names, including some people I’ve only had the opportunity to converse with via social media such as Raina Regan. A few days of preservation related chatter, exploration and new and old faces – what a time we’ll have! And although I’ve been to Minneapolis briefly in 2009, it was only a few hours, I’m looking forward to exploring the city more. And maybe it will be sunny this time.
If you’re going, let me know. I’d love to meet fellow preservationists. See you all soon – next week!
The giant stride is a long-since-removed playground apparatus that dates from early 1900s. Simply put, it was a tall pole with ropes/ladders attached to it. Children could grab hold of the handles and run in circles, so fast that their feet would leave the ground. For safety reasons, it was mostly removed from playgrounds by the 1960s, though some remain.
In graduate school I researched the manufacturing and development of the giant stride, and was fortunate to find a few images of giant strides. I’m jumping back into that research. Readers, have you come across any giant strides or remnants of giant strides? If so, would be willing to share those photographs? If so, please let me know. Your help would be very much appreciated. Here’s what one might look like today:
Following up yesterday’s Preservation Photos #25 post, which featured the Giant Stride, here’s a glance at other unique playground equipment from the early 20th century. Of course there are many sources with great photographs and information, so consider this a sampling.
First, a search through the Library of Congress digital records always provides good entertainment:
With the digital world taking over, Flickr is a wonderful resource as well. People share their own images as well as scanning in magazines, advertisements, etc. By searching for “playground” in the uploads or the “playground” groups, you will find some awesome images. Most of it will be mid 20th century, not ca. 1910 or 1920, but it’s fascinating in a different way. Check out the sets by Nels_P_Olsen on Flickr for images of vintage defunct and surviving playgrounds.
How’s that, Erin? Enough to hold you over? I’ll post more in the future. When you’re out exploring, be sure to let me know of any great old playgrounds! Let’s go build a giant stride in the backyard for now.
One of the best parts of my semester is researching playground layout and equipment for my HP201: History on the Land course using periodicals. This advertisement above is found in many issues of The American City during 1909-1914 (and later, but those are the years of my research). Have you ever seen such a piece of equipment? The Giant Stride – basically you hold on and run around really fast to where you feel like you’re flying. I’ve seen it referred to as the Flying Steps for that reason. Sounds like fun to me!
I’m intrigued the Giant Stride and am trying to find out more information about it, particularly its evolution of construction. Do any of you readers happen to know about the Giant Stride? Do you have pictures, stories, or perhaps an AG Spalding & Bros. catalog? Or any other playground catalog? The early 20th century versions are hard to find, but would be a great help to my research! Thank you!