Wibbler vs. Hobble Wobble

wibbler

This wraps up any uncertainty about the authenticity of the Hobble Wobble, which seemed like it might have been artificially created to look like it was vintage. The name of the inventor made it easy to look up the patent this time. Harold Katz filed his patent in October of 1958 and finally received his patent in March of 1960. This short highlight article on the Wibbler must have been published sometime shortly after, making my original guess ( After the hula hoop in 1958 and before skateboard fad in 1964 ) pretty accurate. Somebody should pay me for this research. Hello Betsy? This is not skateboard related, you may cry, but I will endeavor to prove a direct connection in the following presentation. Can someone dim the lights please?

[Photo: Ebay seller Catzuzan ]

This is from an unknown magazine possibly titled Modern Living, or maybe that’s just the title of this feature.

wibbler1

It’s a Wibbler—distantly related to stilts, half cousin to a Pogo Stick, sister to the Bongo Board. You stand on it, if you can, and wobble the Wibbler back and forth. If you are good you can walk it along. If you are really agile you can race on it and the experts can dance on it. It won’t, however, get anyone anywhere except the inventor, Mr. Harold Katz, and he may go a long way.

One day Mr. Katz saw children playing with a Hula-Hoop and like millions of others said, “Why didn’t I think of that?” So he dreamed up the Wibbler, and then spent 15 months getting a patent on it. In his home town, St. Louis. he sold 55,000 in two months at $1.98 each. Soon now it will be available nationally and who knows how great the Wibbler will wax.

wibbler2

In the text, Mr Katz is preparing to launch the product nationally, after already having sold it locally in St. Louis. The unwieldy name of the “Wibbler” leads me to believe that he did some market research before the national launch, and changed the name to the Hobble Wobble.

It’s 1960 and and the girl in the photo is outdoing her male counterparts.

wibbler3

From Harold Katz’ patent.

In using the toy, the child places his feet on the platforms 11 and attempts to establish a balance on the nonskid caps 15, which serve as balancing points. Once he establishes balance, he attempts to walk, much in the manner of walking on stilts. The problems of weight distribution and muscular control are, however, substantially different from stilt-walking, as are the problems of mounting the device.

The image below looks noticeably different from the manufactured toy, mainly the platforms are quite large. However, the patent makes a note of saying dimensions and relative sizes would be subject to change. Amazingly, someone references this patent in a 1994 patent for essentially the same thing with rotating footrests… which if you add wheels to them, becomes the snakeboard! This would be my “Eureka!” moment were it not for the fact that the snakeboard was patented in 1990, 4 years before the snakeboard without wheels, AKA the Hobble Wobble/ Wibbler with “rotatable footpads.” I still feel like I deserve the Nobel prize of Skateboarding Archeology for this. History will be the judge.

wibbler4

1 Comment

  1. Betsy on July 22, 2016 - Reply

    You do deserve some kind of award for tracking this down. If I were the head of the Smithsonian, I’d put this in my “Weird Tangential Things That Were Almost Skateboards But Not Really” room which would be right next to the “Lappers- Why?” room.

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