The History of Whoopee… The Cushion, That is

Classic Whoopee Cushion

Classic Whoopee Cushion

My kindergarten muse arrived home this week with a very special prize from the treasure box at school. The prize turned out to be a whoopee cushion and she is enchanted with it. Being the detailed little girl that she is, she inflated it and tried it out on every type of seat in the house to see the full effect. She even had different family members give it a go, with the exception of our Betta fish and the cats. It seems that the sound of flatulence is highly entertaining to children ranging between the ages of 5 and 13 years old. Maybe it is because it is a taboo subject in polite society…

I, like many parents, watch mostly everything on television and in movies with my child. Disney’s movie Lion King 1 ½ pays tribute to this taboo subject. Is it Simba the future lion king that saves the day? Of course not! It really is Pumbaa the flatulent warthog. His super power can level armies of hyenas and any other animal with olfactory capabilities that resides on the African savannah. I am thankful that it was not presented in smellovision.

From what I have found, the first historical documentation of the whoopee cushion can be attributed to the Roman Emperor Elagabalus who reigned between 218 and 222 A.D. He can be considered a blip in the Severan Dynasty. His behavior was so atrocious that his own grandmother teamed up with the Praetorian Guard to have him assassinated. However, one of his lesser crimes is reported to have been the use of the whoopee cushion to play pranks on dining guests (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elagabalus).

I believe that the whoopee cushion dates back to the Neolithic times (around to 6,000 to 2,000 B.C.). People are settling down in communities, raising crops and domesticating animals (http://education.yahoo.com/reference/encyclopedia/entry/Neolithi). It is a time where very little went to waste and that with the slaughter of an animal, people made the most of the carcass. The first whoopee cushion may have been made out of a tanned sheep’s bladder.

How did it come about? I remember hearing a story during the avian flu outbreak where some boys that had contracted the disease, had been playing ball with the head of a deceased infected chicken. Kids will play with anything that is available to them. In this instance, as back throughout time, Toys R Us may not have been an option.

In the 1920’s the Canadians, took this flatulent prank concept and ran with it. The JEM Rubber Company out of Toronto, created the first modern whoopee cushion out of sheets of rubber. Although poo-poohed by the owner of S.S. Adams Company as it being too vulgar to market, the Johnson Smith Company sold the product and reaped the rewards from it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whoopee_cushion).

Now that we live in a technologically advanced age, there are electronic whoopee cushions. I invested in one this past year for purely scientific research purposes. The remote control sends a signal that penetrates through walls, doors and cabinetry to the base unit. I guess some of us never really grow up…

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