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Almost Yesterday is a glimpse into the rich history of our region. Dr. Frank Nickell takes listeners on a journey to specific moments in time, such as the first radio broadcast on KFVS, the history of Farmington’s Carleton College, and the short-lived safari on a Mississippi River island. A gifted storyteller and local historian, Dr. Nickell’s wit and love for the past are combined with sounds and music that augment his narrative.On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Almost Yesterday received First Place in the "Special Programs" category at the Missouri Broadcasters Association Awards Banquet in Kansas City, Missouri.Almost Yesterday airs every Wednesday at 5:42 and 7:42 a.m. and 5:18 p.m.

Almost Yesterday: The Hobby Horse is Invented in Sikeston

Southeast Missouri State University
Schematic diagram of the Hahs Hobby Horse.

It seems like Almost Yesterday that the mechanical hobby horse came into existence. U. S. patent number 1,863,012 was filed on February 21, 1931 by J. Otto Hahs of Sikeston, Missouri.

The mechanical horse was designed to serve as entertainment for children. The attractively designed pony was operated by electricity and set in motion with the insertion of a coin in a slot on the horse’s neck. There were four drive wheels in the base on which the horse stood, each providing a different speed for the rider. Thus, the horse could walk, lope, trot, or buck, with the rider regulating the gait with the bridle reins.

The hobby horse, as named by its inventor, was photographed and explained in the February 1932 issue of the magazine, Popular Mechanics. Within days of the magazine’s publication there were inquiries from potential buyers across the nation. By the end of 1932 the Hahs hobby horse was named the most original invention of 1932 by the National Association of Amusement Parks.

By the end of the 1930s J. Otto Hahs had produced more than 100 hobby horses, of various shapes and sizes, and the Sikeston invention was delighting youngsters around the world.

Hahs was born in Daisy, Missouri in 1891, and died in Sikeston in 1969.  As a young man he worked in the McNeely Machine Shop in Jackson, the Fred Groves Automotive Company in Cape, and then in 1919 established his own shop in Sikeston, where he produced a number of inventions.  But, of all of his products, nothing brought as much attention to the Hahs Machine Shop as the mechanical hobby horse which continues to trot, lope, and buck to the delight of youngsters around the world. 

Frank Nickell is a retired history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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