The Original Slinky

Slinky is a toy consisting of a helical spring that stretches and can bounce up and down. It can perform a number of tricks, including traveling down a flight of steps end-over-end as it stretches and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and its own momentum. Creation In 1943, Richard James, a Naval mechanical engineer stationed at the William Cramp and Sons shipyards in Philadelphia, was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas.[1][2] James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring “stepped” in a series of arcs from the shelf, to a stack of books, to a tabletop, to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright.[3][4] James’ wife Betty later recalled, “He came home and said, ‘I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension, I could make it walk.'”[5] James experimented with different types of steel wire over the next year, and finally found a spring that would walk. Betty was dubious at first, but changed her mind after the toy was fine-tuned and neighborhood children expressed an excited interest in it.[4] She dubbed the toy Slinky (meaning “sleek and graceful”), after finding the word in a dictionary,[3][4] and deciding that the word aptly described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing.[6] With a US$500 loan, the couple formed James Industries (originally James Spring & Wire Company), had 400 Slinky units made by a local machine shop, handwrapped each in yellow paper, and priced them at $1 a piece.[4] Each was 2 1/2″ tall, and included 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel.[7] The Jameses had difficulty selling Slinky to toy stores but, in November 1945, they were granted permission to set up an inclined plane in the toy section of Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to demonstrate the toy. Slinky was a hit, and the first 400 units were sold within ninety minutes.[4][7] In 1946, Slinky was introduced at the American Toy Fair. History The toy was invented and developed by army engineer Richard James in the early 1940s and demonstrated at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in November 1945. The toy was a hit, selling its entire inventory of 400 units in ninety minutes. James and his wife Betty formed James Industries in Philadelphia to manufacture Slinky and several related toys such as the Slinky Dog and Suzie, the Slinky Worm. In 1960, James’ wife Betty became president of James Industries, and, in 1964, moved the operation to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1998, Betty James sold the company to Poof Products, Inc. Slinky was originally priced at $1, and has remained modestly priced throughout its history as a result of Betty James’ concern about the toy’s affordability for financially disadvantaged customers. Slinky has seen uses other than as a toy in the playroom: it has appeared in the classroom as a teaching tool, in wartime as a radio antenna, and in physics experiments with NASA. In 2002, Slinky became Pennsylvania’s official state toy, and, in 2003, was named to the Toy Industry Association‘s “Century of Toys List”. In its first 60 years Slinky has sold 300 million units.