We’ve all seen, repaired and even sat in a vehicle’s “jump seat.” But have you ever wondered where the term comes from? We did some digging to find out.
It turns out that the term “jump seat” was used in the United States as early as the 1860s — predating the first affordable automobile by about 50 years — in reference to those small, folding seats commonly affixed to the back of horse-drawn carriages.
In those days, the seat was reserved for housemaids, servants and even slaves who were needed to accompany their employer or master on trips, but were considered too lowly to sit beside.
Of course, anyone who sat in the “jump seat” was working — and therefore expected to “jump” to the main passengers’ every beck and call, hence the name. Among the occupant’s duties was to help passengers in and out of the carriage, hold umbrellas and carry luggage.
By the early 1900s, automobiles began to replace horse-drawn carriages. And though slavery was abolished, upper-class folk still traveled with housemaids and other hired help. Therefore, it only made sense to automakers to equip cars with “jump seats” too.
However, automobiles didn’t remain an upper-class luxury for long. As they became increasingly affordable, the middle-class also began buying and driving them. While these folks didn’t have servants to transport, they certainly appreciated the extra room “jump seats” provided for their children and even luggage.
Recognizing that car owners needed more space, automakers eventually began manufacturing bigger cars — replacing “jump seats” with larger cabins that featured traditional, stationary seats and trunks.
Today, you’re more likely to come across a “jump seat” in a truck, utility van or airplane than a car.