Jumping jack (toy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A jumping jack toy, c.1850

The jumping jack is a jointed, flat wooden figure, a cross between a puppet and a paper doll. The figure's joints are connected to a pull string, which causes the arms and legs move up and down when the string is pulled and released.


Although the jumping jack is popularly thought of as a European toy, it has been compared to ancient Egyptian toy figures with moveable limbs.[1] Ivory dancer figures, made to spin by pulling their strings, have been found at the archaeological site El-Lisht, and are considered to be among the earliest forms of this family of mechanical toys.[citation needed]

Jumping jacks were popular in many countries including England and Germany, where they were known as Hampelmann. In France they were especially popular and generally known as “pantins”.[2]

In the mid-1700s, “pantins” were popular among the French nobility, and versions were sold that satirised famous figures of the time. Edmond Barbier wrote in 1747 that "one cannot go into any house without finding a pantin hanging by the mantelpiece".[3]

Caricature of a lady with a jumping jack dressed as a dandy, 1818.

In 1832 the Hampelmann was created by Carl Malß as a figure for the burlesque at Frankfurt. Later the jumping jack toy became known as Hampelmann in German-speaking countries. They were manufactured in the Erzgebirge mountain range in Germany.[4]

In 1926, in her first year as a student at the famous Bauhaus design school in Dessau, Germany, the textile designer Margaretha Reichardt undertook a preliminary course run by Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy.[5] As part of the course she designed a modern version of the Hampelmann, which was later produced commercially by Naef, a Swiss toy company. Her version is set in a wooden frame, but like traditional Hampelmänner he has articulated limbs that move when a string is pulled.[6]


Oxford Reference cites the word "quockerwodger" as "a wooden puppet which can be made to 'dance' by pulling its strings".[7] By analogy, quockerwodger came to be used for a politician whose "strings" are pulled entirely by their own "puppetmaster".[8]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Oliver Optic's Magazine: Our Boys and Girls ... Lee and Shepard. 1868. Retrieved 7 November 2020.
  2. ^ https://wepa.unima.org/en/jumping-jack/
  3. ^ Twyman, Michael (24 October 2018). Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator and Historian. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-78778-2.
  4. ^ Dtv-lexikon, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich, 1971, vol. 8, p. 169
  5. ^ Bauhaus100.com. Margaretha Reichardt Retrieved 31 October 2018
  6. ^ Formost.de. Margaretha Reichardt. Retrieved 31 October 2018
  7. ^ Oxford Reference. Quockerwodger. Retrieved 31 October 2018
  8. ^ Susie Dent. Twitter. Retrieved 4 June 2020