Slinky Toys based On Physics Principles:Gravity and Inertia and spiral

Metal spiral
Metal spiral | Source

Slinkys were the novelty toy when I was a kid after World War 2. As kids we didn’t know much, or anything, about gravity or physics. Next to the yo-yo it may have been the most mysterious toy we ever saw. It would walk or slither down our stairway and do other marvelous things. When my own kids were young the slinky didn’t seem to be so popular and I was a bit disappointed that my kids didn’t like it as well as I did. I remember buying one for my son but I don’t recall his using it. Maybe because we didn’t have a long stairway.

Creation of the Slinky

The Slinky is also called a “Lazy Spring” is a toy that consist of a helical spring i.e., a spiral like spring. It stretches and can bounce up and down. You can use it to do a number of tricks such as going down a flight of stairs end-over-end. It does this by stretching and reforming as gravity and its momentum takes it from stair to stair.

It was 1943 that Richard James who at the time was a naval mechanical engineer at William cramp and sons shipyards in Philadelphia. He was developing springs, which could support and stabilize sensitive instruments on ships in rough seas. Accidentally knocking a spring from a shelf he watched the spring “step’ in a series of banana splits to a stack of books, to a tabletop, to the floor. It then recoiled itself and stood upright.

When he got home he told his wife Betty about the experience and told her that he thought he could make a spring that could “walk.” For the next year he experimented until he got a spring that would do what he wanted it to do. It took awhile to convert his wife to the idea. She saw the merit when neighborhood children were excited about it. She gave the toy the name “Slinky

Richard James invented it in the early 1940’s; a naval engineer .He demonstrated it at the Philadelphia Gimbals store in November of the year 1945. With an inventory of 400 units he sold them all in and hour and a half. .” Before demonstrating it at Gimbals they tried to sell toy store on the idea but were not successful.

 

With his wife Betty he formed James Industries in Philadelphia to manufacture Slinkys and a number of other toys such as the Slinky dog and Suzie, the slinky Worm. Betty became president of the company in 1960 and she moved the company to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.  Four years later she sold the company to poof Products, Inc.

Slinky ad from 1946
Slinky ad from 1946 | Source

Further along the line

Richard James opened a shop in Philadelphia after he invented a machine that could make a Slinky in a few seconds. The toy was packaged in a red-lettered box and America was saturated with Slinky advertising. He promoted the slinky by appearing on television shows. In 1952 Slinky dog was introduced.

Wilkening Mfg. Co. of Philadelphia and Toronto produced spring centered toys like Mr. Wiggle’s Leapfrog and Mr. Wiggle’s Cowboy. However, James sold 100 million Slinkys in the first two years.

In 1960 the couple broke up and divorced. James left the company to become an Evangelical missionary in Bolivia. He died in 1974.

The company prospered under Betty’s leadership, until she sold it to Poof Products. The two companies were later combined as Poof-Slinky, Inc.

Betty at age 90 died of congestive heart failure in 2008.

What else are Slinkys good for?


 

Teachers to demonstrate the action of waves have used Slinkts. American troops used them in Vietnam a mobile radio antennas. NASA has used them in zero gravity physics experiments in the space shuttle.

Slinkys can be used to create ‘laser gun’ like sound effects. This can be done by holding the slinky in the air and hitting one end with a metallic tone resulting that sharply lowers in pitch.

How does it work?

 

Inertia is a [principle in Physics, which cause objects to resist change in motion. Placed at the top of a stairway it would stay at rest and not move at all. It has potential or stored energy. Once it starts down the steps gravity, potential energy is converted to energy of motion (kinetic energy) and the slinky gracefully tumbles coil by coil down the steps.

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Comments 30 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I too had a slinky and was fascinated by it, but my kids spurned the one I bought them.

Good Hub.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Well I'm glad I'm not alone on that.Thanks for commenting.


thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

Thanks for telling the history of slinky! I was also very fascinated by the slinky when I was a child, maybe because it was the only toy that my father thought was funny! I tried to pass that on to my daughter but with no luck at all! Children today have to many other toys that can do all possible things and also can move by themselves, so they do not understand the thing with slinky at all! Great hub!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.You are probably right.Although our kids didn't get the expensive toyw, as we couldn't afford them.Thanks for commenting


Stina Caxe profile image

Stina Caxe 5 years ago from Virginia

I remember the first time I saw a slinky walk down the stairs as a child, I thought it was the most amazing thing ever! Very interesting information on how the slinky toy was created!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting. They are still kind of interesting hings.


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

dahoglund, how fascinating to read about how the slinky came to be. I didn't realise they were quite that old.

I still love slinkys...there's something about the symmetry of those rings toppling on top of each other. I much prefer the metal ones though and they seem to be less likely to get tangled.

cheers


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks you for reading and commenting.The fact that they are sort of self contained is part of it. They don't have to be plugged in and don't need batteries.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

I do remember the slinky. Back in the 1960s we were conned into believing it was a new toy on the market. Then again manufacturers were also pushing hula hoops as something new and I later found out that they had been around for some time. Good read, dahoglund. My favorite toy when I was about seven was a Stingray submarine. I would have loved to of had a Dalek and to have gone around telling people in monotone they were going to be exterminated. Yes, I was a nice kid.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Actually sounds kind of normal for a kid. Too some extent every generation seems to reinvent things from the past.Some things like hula hoops which I thought was a fad have kind of stuck around. I don't even know when Frisbee appeared but they even have them for dogs now.Maybe that's why I seem to live in the past.

I appreciate your comments, thank you.


rboehm profile image

rboehm 5 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

Oh, I remember Slinky! It seemed to take on a life of it's own once it started down the stairs, and that's what I loved about it. Interesting story behind the fascinating toy. Thanks for sharing.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thank you for reading and commenting.


4youreyes 5 years ago

I had a slinky and was lucky enough to have a long set a stairs on which to play with it. I always found it very fascinating to watch go down the stairs or mesmerizing to put each end in one hand and work it back and forth.Thanks for the child memory and the great lesson on the slinky.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I'm glad you found this information interesting.I think what is great about the slinky is its simplicity.


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Memories.. Thanks for sharing. Flag up!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting and rating it.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

Good memories - Rated Up.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

So the slinky has even made it onto the space shuttle! Great background and current information about the slinky. As a kid I was fascinated by it. Thanks! Useful and up rating!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks Peggy W for the comment. I like the fact that it is so basic and still relatively inexpensive.


resspenser profile image

resspenser 5 years ago from South Carolina

Nifty! My granddaughter actually likes her Slinky!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I'm glad to hear that.Thanks for commenting.


thewanderer profile image

thewanderer 5 years ago

I have a toy like this during my childhood! :)


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for reading and commenting.


Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Wonderful history of the slinky - never had one myself but has seen the ads in all the comics I used to read and used to want one. Brilliant story well told!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

I'm glad you enjoyed this bit of toy history. thanks for commenting


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

Great hub. I voted it up.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.I appreciate the vote.


ellahall2011 profile image

ellahall2011 5 years ago

I remember when I was young and playing slinky. That was really fascinating and we often got quarrel with my younger sister because of it.Haha...Nice hub!


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids Author

Thanks for commenting.They were especially interesting in the early days because there was something mysterious about them.

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