History of the Bubble Blower

Bubble blowers are among the oldest and most popular of children's toys. Even when families had no money for toys, they could find a wire to twist into a circle and some soap for blowing bubbles.

References to bubble blowing may go back to ancient times. Though unverified, C.V. Boys (Soap Bubbles: Their Colors and the Forces Which Mold Them) quotes third-hand that the earliest depiction of blowing bubbles was seen on an Etruscan vase in the Louvre in Paris.

Jean Simeon Chardin's painting
Pear's Soap advertisement

Around 1733, artist Jean Siméon Chardin painted Soap Bubbles, which depicted a young man leaning out a window and blowing a bubble with a pipe. The most well-known modern piece of art, Bubbles (originally titled A Child’s World) was painted by Sir John Everett Millais around 1886 and became famous as an advertisement for Pears soap. An 1882 book, The American Boys Handy Book: What to do and How to do it, by D.C. Beard, has a chapter “Novelties in Soap-Bubbles.” An editorial cartoon about the Republican nomination, titled “The harmless amusement of second childhood,” appeared in a 1888 issue of The Daily Graphic and depicted a man blowing bubbles with monopoly soap and six senators shown in the bubbles.

The earliest patents for bubble blowers known date back to the 1920s. For example, J. L Gilchrist filed a patent in 1918 for a new and improved bubble pipe, that “may be cheaply manufactured and in which the parts are so associated that they may be disassembled and cleaned and quickly reassembled by an unskilled person.”

Pipes and wands were the earliest mass produced bubble blowers. Vintage bubble sets, most popular in the 1940s, generally came in brightly decorated boxes and included a bar of soap, a dish for the soap water, and a bubble pipe or two. Battery-operated and mechanical bubble blowers, often made with colorful lithographed tin bases, became popular in the 50s and 60s. This was also the time when the first bubble blowers featuring television “stars” were produced, with characters from the Howdy Doody Show among the first. From there, thousands of character-oriented blowers have been produced--from Disney figures and Barbie icons, to less known anime and fast food characters. And in recent years, rice has been replaced by bubbles at many weddings.

Collecting bubble blowers themselves is fairly uncommon, but because there are many people who collect items of all kinds related to a particular character (such as, Mickey Mouse or Fred Flintstone), prices can get inflated. For example, a mint tin, battery-operated Linemar Bubble Blowing Popeye sold on eBay in 2001 for $1,724.

Enclosed novelty blower setIn spite of some inflated prices, bubble blowers can make a great collection for kids, as fast food chains, cereal and soap manufacturers, and children’s stores, among others produce free blowers every year. Even if your kids don't collect, bubble blowing can be a great family event. You can buy or make bubble solutions and blow bubbles for your children (and pets) to pop. Mechanical and electric blowers offer a way to produce a fun-filled plethora of bubbles bound to tire out even the most resistant tot. For an unusual treat, try blowing bubbles when it is below freezing. The bubbles turn to fragile balls of ice in the air and may roll or shatter when they hit the ground. Bubble-themed birthday parties are popular, especially since SpongeBob Squarepants became popular.

Early Donald Duck blowerBlowers are truly part of our culture. On this site, you can find some fascinating bubble facts, learn about bubble world record holders, see pictures of some well-known people blowing bubbles, and read articles about specific bubble-related areas. Bubble blowers are heavily featured in song and video. Be sure to check out blowers found in articles or on TV, and perhaps most importantly, take a listen to the many versions of the song "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles."


last updated: 06/16/2010