The History of The Giant Foam Finger
The foam finger (or foam hand) is one of the most iconic props in fandom. Look around the crowd of any major sporting event, and you’re certain to spot a foam hand or two.
Foam fingers are particularly popular in America and regularly make appearances at baseball, American football, and basketball games. Look a little closer though and you’ll see them throughout wrestling events and even pantomimes!
But where did this strange curiosity emerge from? Where did it start? We’re going to delve into the history of the foam finger and find out.
What Inspired the Foam Finger?
The original concept for the giant hand is thought to have been created by Steve Chmelar in 1971. Steve constructed a giant hand out of hardware cloth and papier-mache to support the Ottumwa Bulldogs at the Iowa High School Athletic Association Boy’s State Basketball Finals.
A picture of Steve was taken by the Associated Press and published in the Des Moines Tribune. This is believed to be the first documented image of the concept of the giant hand. It may have been this documentation that helped to form the idea for the later giant foam finger.
In an interview with USA Today Steve said, “I remember we used to hold our arm erect with a finger signifying No. 1… I thought if I could make that much bigger, it would get more attention”.
Steve to this day still owns the original giant hand and in 2012 released a picture of it. This picture shows the hand signed by members of the Ottumwa Bulldogs.
Who Created the First Foam Finger?
Seven years later, in 1978 Geral Fauss began creating giant hands as a means to support a team at the high school where he taught. His intention was to raise funds for his industrial arts club and the original prototype was in fact made from plywood.
Following the success of the hand at the high school event, Fauss made the decision to move into the sports merchandise industry. Fauss started out by manufacturing and selling hands at the 1978 Cotton Bowl game. He would later go on to found Spirit Industries and create the very first polyurethane foam finger in 1979.
It may well have been Chmelar who was first documented bearing the concept for the giant hand, however, what we know today as the giant foam finger was created by Geral Fauss.
Whether Fauss was inspired by the earlier picture of Chmelar is unknown. Fauss claims to have no knowledge of Steve Chmelar prior to creating the first foam finger and remains to this day to be the credited inventor. He also claims to have fought back against eight lawsuits stating that “nobody could predate” the foam finger he created.