History of Slinky

October 7, 2015 by  
Filed under Spotlight, The Den

History of Slinky

Let’s take a closer look into the history of Slinky – one of the best loved classic toys.
With the popularity of internet shopping classic toys that were once hard to find have now been discovered by a whole new generation. These toys, which sold very well after they were introduced never seemed to go completely out of style.

Okay, first a little background. It was in 1943 when a Naval engineer, named Richard James, had accidentally knocked some springs off a shelf. At the time he had been working on a specially designed meter. One that was designed to monitor a battleship’s horsepower. 

It was the odd movement of these springs that gave Richard James the kernel of an idea. In an instant a new had arrived. That toy was the Slinky.

A fad had been born and the history of Slinky was being written.

He was fascinated with the way they walked instead of falling.
Richard James then spent the next two years testing and refining the best steel and coil specifications to utilize for his new toy.

It was his wife Betty who actually came up with the name, “Slinky” for his new toy creation. The word Slinky also happens to be the Swedish term for traespiral or sleek.

The couple borrowed the sum of five hundred dollars. James then designed a machine to coil eighty feet of wire into a two-inch spirals and manufacture their new toy. Sales were disappointingly slow at first.

But during the 1945 Christmas shopping season, at Gimbels Department Store in Philedelphia, a sales demonstration took place. Sales soared. The first 400 Slinky units sold out within ninety minutes.

Richard James suffered what some called a mid-life crisis.
Around 1960 he left his wife and six children to join a Bolivian religious cult.

I guess 15 years of staring at a spring had it’s downside. But not to worry, Betty James then took over as CEO of James Industries and introduced other toys for the Slinky line-up.

They included Slinky Pets, Crazy Eyes Slinky and the Neon Slinky. Betty also had the original black-blue Swedish steel replaced with American steel. Lastly, she moved the company headquarters from Philadelphia to Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania.

The history of Slinky comes complete with real life drama – included free in every box.

What followed was an aggressive advertising campaign complete with the now famous Slinky jingle.
The Slinky is not just an entertaining toy for children. It’s used in physics classes to demonstrate wave properties, forces and energy states.

The Slinky continues to sell (roughly 250 million have been sold to date) and are still manufactured in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania using the original equipment designed by Richard James.

As for the Bolivian religious cult…well, who knows. With a track record like that it’s easy to believe the history of Slinky is still being written.

Best of luck and collect well.


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