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Iowa History Daily: February 3 - George Nissen & his Trampoline

Iowa History Daily: On February 3, 1914, American gymnast and inventor of the trampoline George Nissen was born in Blairstown, Iowa. An iconic Iowa athlete and inventor, Nissen left a legacy of high-flying innovation over a life of developing and advancing an Olympic sport.

Nissen showed a proficiency for gymnastics from a young age. As a 16-year old student at Cedar Rapids Washington High School, Nissen attended a 1930 circus where he watched acrobats jumping into a safety net, and the seed of a great idea was planted. As a star career in gymnastics led to three NCAA national championships during his collegiate years at University of Iowa, Nissen began to develop a “tumbling device.” Working with his coach Larry Griswold, Nissen built a prototype from iron, a canvas bed, and rubber springs.

Following college, Nissen toured Mexico while performing at fairs and carnivals. During the tour Nissen heard the Spanish word for springboard, trampolin, and the name stuck. Following a trademark of ‘trampoline’ upon his return to the states, Nissen and Griswold started the Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company in Cedar Rapids in 1941.

After gaining usage in pilot training by the United States Army Air Force during World War II, Nissen received his first patent for the device. 44 more patents would follow, and Nissen toured the globe tirelessly to promote his invention and the gymnastic sport of trampolining. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 86 year old Nissen looked on as trampolining debuted as an Olympic sport. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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