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 History Of Slinky  
 
Everyone wants a SlinkyOne 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®. 

A 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 to "walk".

This 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 in Philadelphia.

However, 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 in 1960.

Left 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.

Slinky® 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.

Purchased 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:

  • The Discovery and History Channels selected Slinky as one of the top 10 toys of the 20th Century.
  • The U.S. Postal Service honored Slinky on a 1999 commemorative stamp.
  • Slinky participated on a NASA space mission.
  • Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold.

Click here to download the entire vintage news article.

 
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