The Origin of the Slinky
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!