The History of Bean Bags


The concept of the bean bag has been around for centuries. Originally a simple toy for children, it has evolved into furniture, a pain reliever and even a non-lethal weapon. Today, many materials besides beans are used to fill bean bags.

History of Bean Bags

  • It's difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint when was the first time someone filled a cloth bag with beans, rice or sand and gave it to a child as a toy, but bean bags have been around almost as long as there have been children. Juggling began in about 2000 B.C., and today's beginning jugglers usually start with bean bags as they develop the hand-eye coordination necessary to perform the task of juggling.

Bean Bag Game

  • The bean bag game is connected to the game of horseshoes, in which a player tosses a horseshoe at a metal spike driven into the ground some feet away. The principle is the same for the bean bag toss, only bean bags are substituted for horseshoes, and a wooden box with a hole in it is substituted for the spike. Also called "corn hole," this game is believed to have originated in the 14th century in Germany.

Bean Bag Furniture

  • Bean bag chairs first appeared in the late 1960s, when a group of Italian designers designed a leather, pear-shaped chair. Dubbed "Sacco," it was manufactured in vinyl and filled with polystyrene pellets, a newly developed material. Its popularity soared in the 1970s, and although bean bags remained popular as children's furniture, they came back into vogue with teens and adults with the introduction of bean bag "media" or "videogame" chairs.

Bean Bag Toys

  • Ty Warner, a plush toy maker, wanted to create a cuddly soft toy that children could afford to buy on their allowances and that easily fit into their hands. In November 1993, Ty Inc. introduced the first Beanie Babies at a toy exposition, and within two years, demand outstripped supply for these understuffed, bean-filled animals. Other manufacturers copied Ty's successful formula, and Beanie Baby counterfeiters popped up as well. The fad peaked by the end of the '90s.

Other Bean Bags

  • Photographers find bean bags useful for propping up their cameras in order to prevent "camera shake." Police use guns that fire bean bag rounds to subdue suspects who are out of control. Bean bag pillows (typically filled with wheat hulls) are marketed to people who wake with stiff necks from sleeping on traditional pillows. Special bean bags containing herbs and that may be heated or chilled for pain relief have also enjoyed popularity in recent years.

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