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The Origin of the Slinky

Updated on April 6, 2012

Everyone loves a Slinky! I remember spending hours trying to place them in just the right position, so that they would ‘walk’ all the way down the stairs. But where did this popular toy come from?

The Slinky was actually invented by complete accident! In 1943, a marine engineer names Richard James had been trying to invent a spring that could be used to offset the unsteady effects of a boats movements through the water on the extra sensitive navigational instruments used in the industry. His experiments did not work the way he had hoped.

One day, he accidentally knocked one of his loose springs off a shelf. As it fell, the spring uncoiled like a snake, and seemingly ‘crawled’ to the ground. Watching his invention ‘spring to life,’ Richard James realized that the spring he had invented would be a great idea for a toy! He immediately brought the idea to his wife, and together they began to research and experiment with materials and coils, until they had created the very first Slinky. The Slinky name was coined by James’ wife, Betty.

With the help of his wife, Betty, and an original investment of $500, Richard James engineered the machinery he would use to manufacture the Slinky, and founded his own company, located in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, called James Spring & Wire Company, which was later renamed James Industries.

The Slinky made its debut at Gimbel's Department Store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1945, and has increased in popularity ever since. It is estimated that more than 300 million Slinkys have been sold worldwide, and the only change in the original design has been the addition of a crimp the ends as a safety measure.

In 1960, Betty James took over the company and began to expand their line of products to include Slinky Jr., Slinky Pets, and the plastic version that is more commonly seen today. The slinky is a perfect, simple toy. It doesn’t require any batteries, it’s relatively quiet, and it provides children with hours of amusement at a very low price. Sometimes the best ideas come to us completely by accident!


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    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      You know, who doens't love a slinky? NOw I knwo where it came from. Up and shared!

    • profile image

      Adam98 6 years ago

      When I was 6 I got a rainbow coloured one, and I used to drive my mum mad because I kept tangling it. It took her ages to fix it :P

    • K Kiss profile image

      K Kiss 6 years ago from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

      Oh man I remember those days. I used to have an orange one..would spend hours as a kid playing on the stairway. You gave me a flashback there.

      Voted up and shared.

    • gail641 profile image

      Gail Louise Stevenson 6 years ago from Mason City

      I remember Slinky. The history behind it is very interesting. Its nice to know where things came from and how they got started. I don't remember having one as a kid, but when I got older I had one. It would be fun seeing a Slinky walking down the stairs!

    • jellygator profile image

      jellygator 6 years ago from USA

      I agree, L.L.! I've played with the plastic ones when my kids were young, and it just ain't the same.

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 6 years ago from Indianapolis

      Thanks for bringing back some memories. I had the metal one and can remember that noise they made as they walked down the stairs. Our dog would love to chase it.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 6 years ago from Oklahoma City

      I can't imagine playing with anything but a metal Slinky. The sound was soothing to me, especially when I held it in my hands and made it whoosh back and forth. Enjoyed this hub.

      Voted up and SHARED.

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      huh, a blast from the past. Actually, one of my students brought one into class a few months back. I was quite amazed at how popular they still are! lol

      Thanks for SHARING.

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 6 years ago from Orange County, California

      What a delightful hub! I remember my childhood slinky well.

    • SonQuioey10 profile image

      Toni Northern 6 years ago from Williamston NC

      I had a silver slinky, and could never get it to go down any stairs. I loved it anyway though, more than that pet rock I had. Great Hub.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 6 years ago

      What a great hub and so enjoyable to read. I remember playing with a slinky as a kid and still enjoy it with my grandkids. They come in so many different colors and shapes today. It just goes to show you that inventions can come from anywhere.

    • Sparklea profile image

      Sparklea 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      Thanks for the great information! I played with slinky as a kid! Never knew the background. Voted up! Also, thank you for following me! I am following you and look forward to reading your hubs. Blessings, Sparklea :)

    • charles wade profile image

      charles wade 6 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      “It’s slinky, slinky a fun and …. Toy. Everyone knows it’s slinky” I can't remember for sure but wasn't that part of the commercial jingle. Fun Hub!

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 6 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      It is the simplest of things which are not only the most popular, but provide the most enjoyment. Only a shame that parents today don't realise this before getting into debt to keep their kids in the latest trends and gadgets.

      Great simple hub....I like it.

    • catalystsnstars profile image

      catalystsnstars 6 years ago from Land of Nod

      I've always wanted a slinky. It's a simple fun, non-battery toy for endless fun.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I enjoyed learning about the history of the slinky. I used to love my pink/purple coloured one as a girl. You brought back good memories!

    • Kris Heeter profile image

      Kris Heeter 6 years ago from Indiana

      I loved learning the history here - very nice. I still have fond memories of going to my grandmother's and spending what seemed like hours letting the slinky "walk" down her grand wooden staircase. We didn't have stairs at my house so it was a fun novelty and something we always looked forward to:)

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Funny how looking for one solution to a problem can lead to something like the Slinky. Voting this Up and Interesting.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      I didn't know Slinkys had been around that long. I remember spending hours playing with mine. My kids too logged in quite a bit of time. Made going up and down the stairs tricky but it did keep them quiet.

      Nice hub. Voted interesting.

    • Maddie Ruud profile image

      Maddie Ruud 6 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I had a rainbow-colored slinky when I was a kid. Combined with a flight of stairs, it provided seemingly endless entertainment... but I bet most kids this day would turn up their noses.