Jack-in-the-Box

Inducted 2005

The jack-in-the-box offers continual delight. Known since the 16th century, and appearing as a Punch box (minus sidekick Judy), an admiral on a stick, and a Johnny jump-up, sometimes the jack figure was more horrible than humorous. Later, cuter examples show a growing kindliness toward children. Children still ask parents to crank the toy over and over without tiring of the joke. “Do it again!” They get help to reload it, deferring the jolt and the gratification. “Wait for it,” and crank it yet again, to hum along, to learn a peek-a-boo skill, and to appreciate cause-and-effect every time the jester pops up. Manufacturers first produced the box in wood, then printed cardboard, and most familiarly in lithographed tin in the 20th century. Jack-in-the-boxes initially featured the familiar clown in papier-mâché, then bisque, then celluloid, then plastic. The toy also now appears with a variety of pleasant revelations: Winnie the Pooh sometimes shoots up, so do the Cat in the Hat, the Three Little Pigs, The Big Bad Wolf, assorted kitties and doggies, and suitably, Curious George.