The First Inflatables
While wading pools date back to ancient civilizations, private "splasher" or kiddie pools were most likely launched sometime after the inflatable beach ball made its debut in 1938. Believed to have been invented by Jonathon DeLonge, the first beach balls were originally the size of a human hand. As the six multi-color-paneled beach balls got larger (probably because the smaller ones got swallowed up by the ocean), other inflatable toys, swim floats and kiddie pools followed. This photo from the early 1940s shows a little girl in a clever design that features inflatable horse heads on the side of the pool.
It's a Doughboy!
After World War II, in 1947, Domain Industries renamed its packaging machinery operation the Doughboy Plastics Division. Doughboy was created to enter the outdoor family recreation market by manufacturing inflatable splasher pools, toys and beach balls. As Doughboy Recreational, the company manufactured larger above-ground swimming pools, which, in midcentury America, were considered a middle-class status symbol, along with built-in barbecues, covered patios, wood decks and two-car garages. A kiddie pool has always been a quick way to cool down in an inexpensive way. Splasher pools are seasonal items that were / are available at five-and-dimes, drug stores, supermarkets, chain retailers and online. The drab greens, blues and browns of hard, molded plastic of the 1960s have given way to colorful graphics, themes and characters. Some of the larger deluxe models have interactive water features, built-in slides and a miniature water-park vibe.
Kiddie Pool Memories
We've curated old and new photos of kids, pets and even a few grown-ups cooling off in their kiddie pools: