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Who Invented the Bounce House?

Bounce houses are a favorite entertainment for youngsters around the world and have brought joy to children for decades. John Scurlock invented the first bounce house in 1959 in Shreveport, LA, but that’s not what he set out to do.

Scurlock was an engineer and professor experimenting with inflatable structures, specifically for tennis courts. He also did work creating products for NASA and the oil and gas industry. His goal was to invent a tennis court cover that could be deployed quickly, rapidly deflated, and then compacted down for easy storage.

The inventor was working with different types of plastics and one of his creations was a plastic cushion known as the Space Pillow. It was really more of a mattress at that point. The idea for the bounce house came to him after watching his employees, then his friends and children, bouncing on the device. He observed the fun they were having and an idea was born.

Scurlock began manufacturing his Space Pillow in a factory in New Orleans, LA, where horse pads were created. His invention proved popular, but was dangerous and bore little resemblance to the bounce houses of today. It had no walls, no netting, and no safety features.

Scurlock’s wife, Frances, is actually credited with getting the bounce house business off the ground and turning the business into a rental operation called Space Walk in 1968. She began renting out the devices for birthday parties, fund-raising events and similar events. The family continued to improve on the design and released a model in 1974 with safety netting and inflatable columns they dubbed the Jupiter Jump.

The bounce house was a success and began appearing at carnivals and county fairs, to name a few. However, that’s not the end of the Scurlock story. In 1976, the family company expanded into a custom facility. When John and Frances Scurlock retired, their son, Frank, took over the business.

In 1986, Frank Scurlock invented the first indoor amusement center, a model that’s been recreated numerous times by various companies. He followed that up in 1991 by inventing the first inflatable water slide and the family’s Space Walk company invented the first inflatable photo booth in 2012.

Inflatables of all types are now available and the entertainments are offered as rentals at more than 200 locations across the U.S. Today, there are inflatable bounce houses, water slides, mazes, obstacle courses, human-sized lawn games and interactive options. Individuals can rent inflatable photo booths, carnival games, mini bars, and extreme sports activities. Scurlock’s legacy continues to live on.

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