Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Did You Know?

The Slinky was invented in 1943 by Richard and Betty James, somewhat by accident. Richard was a naval engineer stationed at the Cramp shipyards in Philadelphia. While working on a way to make a ship’s instruments easier to read, a torsion spring fell off a table. Watching, Richard decided it might make a fun toy so he took it home to show his wife.

Betty searched the dictionary for a suitable name and finally found the Swedish word “Slinky” which means smooth, flowing, stealthy, sleek and sinuous. The couple spent the next two years experimenting with different wires and perfecting the idea.

In 1945, Betty and Richard convinced Gimbels to let them set up a ramp in the toy department in order to demonstrate the walking abilities of their invention. They had 400 Slinkys with them and were afraid they wouldn’t sell at the asking price of $1.00. Ninety minutes later, the Slinkys were sold out. Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold since then and the cost for a standard metal model is still under $5.00.

With an initial investment of $500, the James Spring & Wire Company was formed. Made from 80 feet of wire the only design change since the beginning has to crimp the ends as a safety measure.

In 1960, Richard had a mid-life crisis. He ran off to join a “religious” order in Bolivia, leaving Betty and their six children. At the time, the company was in serious debt due to Richard’s excessive generosity with his religion. Betty saved the day with the Slinky dog. She moved the company, James Industries by then, to Hollidaysburg where Slinkys have been made ever since using the machine originally designed by Richard.

On November 4, 2001 Slinky became the Official State Toy of Pennsylvania. Also in 2001, Betty James and the Slinky were inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. Betty was the president of James Industries from 1960 until 1998 when she merged the company with Poof Products. She died earlier this year at the age of 90.


Regina Carlysle said...

Yeah, Betty. Now there's an admirable woman. I don't know of anyone who didn't have one of these when they were kids.

Molly Daniels said...

I'd forgotten about the Slinky Dog! We used to spend hours at my grandmother's house, racing our Slinkies down the basement stairs:)

Yes...we were easily entertained back then, ha ha:)