of the most famous toys in history originated in a meter
for testing horsepower on battle ships. As World War II
raged on in 1943, marine engineer Richard James worked
at his desk in Philadelphia's Cramp Shipyard. It was a
routine day, but a harmless mishap forever changed the
life of James and his wife Betty and sowed the seed that
produced the immortal Slinky®.
torsion spring used in a testing meter fell off James'
desk and tumbled end over end across the floor. James
took it home to Betty that evening and said, "I
think I can make a toy out of this." This he did
by devising a steel formula that allowed the spring
accomplished, Betty thumbed through the dictionary for
a fitting name for the toy and found it in Slinky®,
which was defined as "stealthy, sleek and sinuous".
In 1945, Richard and Betty used a $500 loan to pay a
company for manufacturing a small quantity of Slinks
and an attempt was made to sell it through retail outlets
with no name recognition, the spring didn't sell. It
just sat on the counter. As Christmas neared, Gimbels
Department Store agreed to provide counter space for
400 Slinkys and Richard James went down ahead of Betty
to demonstrate the toy. It was a snowy evening, and
the Jameses feared the worst, but when Betty arrived
at Gimbels, she spotted a mob of people with dollars
in their hands, and they were gathered around the Slinky®
display. Within 90 minutes all 400 Slinkys were sold,
and the rest is toy history.
A factory was established
in Philadelphia and Richard quit his job at the shipyard
to devote full time to the Slinky®, which was the
hit of the 1946 American Toy Fair in New York City.
During the 1950's business boomed, but Richard James'
life took a course that led to his going to South America
with the responsibility of six children and now a floundering
business, Betty James began a rebirth of the Slinky
dream by relocating the factory to her hometown of Hollidaysburg,
a small town adjacent to Altoona. By 1960, Betty had
a unique co-op advertising plan in full swing, aided
by the production of a "jingle" that is still
the sound behind Slinky® television commercials.
sales continued to increase through the years and a
number of new items were added to the James Industries
line of toys. In 1990, a national survey by a publication
revealed that 89.8 percent of the people in America
knew what a Slinky was or were familiar with the jingle.
in 1998 by Poof Products, a leading American toy company,
Slinky® is firmly entrenched as one of the leading
staples of the toy industry and is one of America's
most recognized brand names.
Other milestones include:
Discovery and History Channels selected Slinky as
one of the top 10 toys of the 20th Century.
U.S. Postal Service honored Slinky on a 1999 commemorative
participated on a NASA space mission.
300 million Slinkys have been sold.