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Fascinating facts about the invention of the
Slinky
by Betty and Richard James in 1945.
SLINKY®
AT A GLANCE:
The Slinky® debuted at Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945. Richard James, the inventor, was skeptical about how the Slinky® would sell. All his doubts were put to rest when all 400 Slinkys® for sale were purchased in 90 minutes. Since then, over three hundred million Slinkys® have been sold worldwide.
THE STORY
RELATED INFO
BOOKS
VIDEOS
WEB SITES
QUOTATIONS
DID YOU KNOW?
Invention: Slinky in 1945
Function: noun / trademark
Definition: Not only is the Slinky an excellent toy, its action also demonstrates a variety of physical forces and principles. The Slinky, like all objects, tends to resist change in its motion.
Patent: 2,415,012 (US) issued January 28, 1947
Inventor: Richard James and Betty James
NO
IMAGE
AVAILABLE
Criteria; First to patent. Entrepreneur.
Birth: Betty-February 13, 1918 in Altoona, Pennsylvania
Richard-1914
Death: Richard-1974
Nationality: American
Milestones:
1943 Richard noticed the interesting flip-flops of a torsion spring bouncing across the floor
1045 Richard and Betty begin production of the Slinky toy on a machine that Richard invented
1956 The company changes its name from James Spring & Wire Company to James Industries, Inc.
1960 Richard moves to Bolivia leaving Betty to run the business and raise six children
1998 Slinky Brand sold to Poof Toys
slinky, slinky toy, betty james, richard james, poof toys, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of, fascinating facts.
Story:
In 1943. during World War II, an engineer in the United States Navy was on a new ship's run. As he worked, a torsion spring suddenly fell to the floor. the spring flip-flopped as the ingenious man watched. The naval engineer's name was Richard James, and when he returned home, he remembered the spring and the interesting way it flip-flopped. James and his wife Betty perfected a long steel ribbon tightly coiled into a spiral.

They began production in 1945. Richard and Betty borrowed $500.00. They started a company. They called it James Spring & Wire Company. Richard made a machine. He designed it himself. When it was finished, it made Slinkys. They were made of 80 ft of wire. The wire came from Sweden. In 1956 the company changed its name. It became James Industries.

From that spring's accidental fall came a toy Americans have enjoyed for over fifty years, the Slinky. The non-electrical, no-battery-required, non-video toy has fascinated three generations of children and adults alike. According to one estimate more than 300 million Slinkys have been sold and the only change in the original design has been to crimp the ends as a safety measure.

TO LEARN MORE

RELATED INFORMATION:
Toy and Game History   from The Great Idea Finder

ON THE BOOKSHELF:

Mistakes That Worked
by Charlotte Foltz Jones, John O'Brien (Illustrator) / Paperback - 48 pages
(1994) / Doubleday
Recounting the fascinating stories behind the accidental inventions of forty familiar objects and products.
Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things
by Charles Panati / Paperback - 480 pages Reissue edition (September 1989) / HarperCollins
Discover the fascinating stories behind the origins of over 500 everyday items, expressions and customs.
Toys!: Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson, Laurie Keller  / Hardcover - 128 pages (2000) / Henry Holt & Company
The quirky tales behind more than two dozen novelties, gadgets and games, from seesaws to Silly Putty and toy soldiers to Trivial Pursuit.

ON THE SCREEN:
The History of Toys and Games  
DVD / 1 Volume Set / 100 Minutes / The History Channel / Less than $30.00
As long as there have been children, there have been toys. And from wooden tops to virtual reality, America has always taken its playthings pretty seriously. Hear the fascinating stories of the young-at-heart inventors who created some of the most famous games and toys of all time, and meet the people who play for a living, trying to anticipate what kids will fall for next holiday season..

Toy Story
DVD / Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Slinky /
ASIN: B000059XUT / Walt Disney Home Video

Just a picture of these bright toys on the cover of Toy Story looks intriguing, reawakening the kid in us.


ON THE WEB:
Slinky History
Official Slinky Web site from the new (1998) owners of Slinky brand, Poof Toys.
(URL: www.poof-slinky.com/history.asp/)

Pennsylvania People
Betty James helped her husband to develop and market the Slinky. She continued in this work on her own, and established a successful business with a quality product.
(URL: cbsd.org/pennsylvaniapeople/level1_biographies/Biographies_Level_1/betty_james_level_1.htm)
Slinky Physics
The physical properties of the slinky determine how quickly it moves under the influence of gravity. Although its movement may look simple, from a scientific point of view the motion is quite complex.
(URL: www.ktca.org/newtons/9/slink.html)
Slinky Home Page
Everything Slinky. Includes physics experiments, history, slinky lings page and more.
(URL: www.slinky.org/)
NASA SCIence Files
Slinky Science, in this activity, you will investigate how an energy wave travels
(URL: whyfiles.larc.nasa.gov/text/educators/activities/2000_2001/athome/slinky_science.html)

WORDS OF WISDOM:
The Slinky Song.

“What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs,
And makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing,
Everyone knows it’s Slinky.
It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky,
For fun it’s a wonderful toy,
It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky,
It’s fun for a girl and a boy.”

This catchy jingle helped people remember the Slinky.


DID YOU KNOW?:

  • The Slinky® is still made in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania with the original equipment Richard James created.
  • Carried by communications soldiers in Vietnam, Slinky was tossed over a high tree branch as a makeshift radio antenna.
  • Slinky was incorporated into a spring device used to pick pecans from trees.
  • Slinky has gone aloft in the space shuttle to test the effects of zero gravity on the physical laws that govern the mechanics of springs. In space, Slinky behaves like neither a spring nor a toy but as a continuously propagating wave.
  • The Slinky® (under House Bill No.1893 - Session 2001, of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania) has been named the Official State Toy of Pennsylvania as of November 4, 2001.
  • The Discovery and History Channels selected Slinky as one of the top 10 toys of the 20th Century.
  • The U.S. Postal Service honored Slinky on a 1999 commemorative stamp.
  • Slinky participated on a NASA space mission.
  • Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold.
Slinky is a registered trademark of Poof Products
Reference Sources in BOLD Type This page revised July 20, 2005.
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