The Politics of Playgrounds, a History

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

America’s first playground opened in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 1887:

Groundbreaking at the time, the playground included swings, slides and even a ride in a cart pulled by a goat. Most popular, though, was the Roman temple carousel, complete with doric columns. This was replaced in 1912 with another wooden carousel. It was so popular that it even did a turn at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

Do-gooders with a passion for improving the plight of the urban poor latched onto playgrounds as a progressive ideal. John Dewey argued eloquently that play was as important as work for children, and groups like the Outdoor Recreation League provided slides, seesaws and professional play leaders to slum areas.

Professional play leaders? That does sound… progressive.

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