Pom Poms The Cheerleading Innovation

The history of cheerleading and related inventions.

Cheerleader Holding Pompoms Jumps in the Air
Cheerleader Holding Pompoms Jumps in the Air. Getty Imahes & Photographer Digital Vision
Cheerleading by definition is the organized cheering conducted at sports events. Official cheerleaders use organized routines that are part gymnastics, dance, and/or stunt to cheer on sports teams and the audience at sporting events.

During the 1860's, students in Great Britain began cheering routines (Sis Boom Rah!) at competitive sporting events and soon the idea spread to the United States.

The first cheerleaders in the U.S. were organized by Princeton Pep club member Thomas Peebler.

Six cheerleaders performed at a Princeton University vs University of Minnesota American football game on November 2, 1898. The head cheerleader was Johnny Campbell and all six of the cheerleaders were men. The Princeton cheerleading yells were:

Ray, Ray, Ray!
Tiger, Tiger, Tiger!
Sis, Sis, Sis!
Boom, Boom, Boom!
Aaaaah! Princeton, Princeton, Princeton!

Women cheerleaders did not appear until the early 1920s.


Pom Poms

Pom poms are the decorative balls of handheld streamers that cheerleaders often use as visual props.

The first use of pom poms can be traced back to the 1930s, at that time pom poms were all handmade from paper. In 1953, Lawrence Herkimer founded the Cheerleading Supply Company and three years started commercially manufacturing pompoms.

Fred Gastoff invented the first vinyl pompoms in 1965. The new vinyl pompoms were first used by the International Cheerleading Foundation.

Pom poms are also known as pompoms, poms, pom pons, and pompons.

All the spellings ending in "n" are the official names; while the spellings ending in "m" are the more popular versions. All the names originated from the French word "pompon"