Whoopee Cushion

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

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Whoopee cushion © Andrew Paterson/Alamy

The new sound of novelty.

A new sound: that’s all a novelty item needed to become a raging sensation in the late 1920s. Companies offered a wide variety of devices that emitted strange sounds when squeezed–some a child’s scream, others a cat’s screech. Experimenting with sheets of rubber, employees of the JEM Rubber Company in Toronto hit upon a different sound. The noise that emanated from their little rubber pillow was a tad more, now shall we put it, indelicate. American novelty purveyor Johnson Smith & Company heard the call and added JEM’s doohickey to its giant catalogue. The economy model went for 25 cents, a deluxe edition for $1.25. A perfect gift for the discerning prankster who has everything. Sales erupted with a loud toot and haven’t ceased. The sound of the Whoopee Cushion can still be heard loud and clear wherever unsuspecting bottoms and chairs get together.

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