Historic Jack Jumper & Traverse Donated

Think Hannah Kearney could win an Olympic gold medal sitting down?

If they had held the winter Olympics back in the 19th century, she might have been riding an antique "jack jumper" from the period, similar to one that will be on display at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site when it opens this spring.

This predecessor to the modern snowboard - it looks like a stool bolted to a single ski - is one of two antique sliding toys recently donated to the museum by a local woman.

"I would imagine the jack jumper was a fairly radical ride for its time," said site administrator William Jenney. "It certainly would appeal to the free-spirited types - there's no way to steer, except to shift your body and hang on."

The other sled, called a traverse, was made for multiple passengers and originally belonged to Charles Adams, a descendent of Luther Adams who built the first floating bridge in Brookfield.

More than eight feet long with pivoting wooden runners steered by a rope, the red wooden traverse was used at the Normal School in Randolph in the 1880s.

"Both of these items were donated by Miriam Herwig of Randolph Center and really enhance the collection here at the Coolidge site because we know their histories," Jenney said. "We'll use them in our educational programs to show what Vermont children did for winter fun before the advent of skiing and snowboarding."

The jack jumper has traces of old red paint on the seat and pedestal and the initials "GHW" appear on the side of the pedestal, carved there by its original owner, George Woodward of Williamstown, who was a friend of Herwig's father.

The Vermont Division for Historic Preservation maintains the village of Plymouth Notch much as it was when Calvin Coolidge was a boy and curates the largest collection of artifacts associated with President Coolidge and his family.

The President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site is open May 29 through October 17, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The site office, located in the Aldrich House, is open most weekdays year-round and has exhibits especially designed for winter visitors.

"The snow-covered hillsides surrounding the village are perfect for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, or even jack jumping," Jenney said.

For further information call 672-3773 or visit www.HistoricVermont.org/sites.

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