It’s a Slinky


It’s a Slinky

It’s a Slinky, one of the most well-known toys in history came from a meter for testing the horse power for battleships.  As World War II raved on in 1943, marine engineer Richard James worked at his desk in Philadelphia’s Cramp Shipyard. It was a regular day at work, however a harmless incident forever changed the life of James and his wife Betty and planted the seed that produced the immortal Slinky!

A torsion spring utilized in a testing meter fell off James’ desk and tumbled end over end across the room. James took the torsion spring home to Betty that evening and said, “I believe I can make a toy out of this.” James did this by developing a steel formula that allowed the spring to “literally walk”.

With this task now accomplished, Betty thumbed through the dictionary for a fitting name for the toy and discovered it in Slinky, which was defined as “stealthy, streamlined and sinuous”.  In 1945, Richard and Betty utilized a $500 loan to pay a business for producing a small quantity of Slinks and an attempt was made to sell it through retail outlets in Philadelphia.

Nevertheless, with no name recognition, unfortunately the Slinky did not sell.  It simply sat on the shelf collecting dust but as Christmas neared, Gimbels Department Store consented to supply counter space for 400 Slinkys and Richard James went to Gimbels and began demonstrating the toy.  It was a snowy evening, and the Richard feared the worst, but when Betty arrived at Gimbels, she found a mob of Christmas shoppers with dollars in their hands and they were collected around the Slinky display. Within 90 minutes all 400 Slinkys were sold and the rest is toy history.


A factory was built in Philadelphia and Richard quit his job at the shipyard to devote full time to the development and sales of the Slinky, which was the hit of the 1946 American Toy Fair in New York City.  Throughout the 1950’s the company grew, however Richard James’ life took a turn that led him to live in South America in 1960.

Left with the obligation of 6 children and now a going to pieces company, Betty James started a rebirth of the Slinky dream by transferring the factory to her hometown of Hollidaysburg, a village adjacent to Altoona. By 1960 Betty had a distinct co-op marketing plan in full swing, assisted by the production of a “jingle” that is still the noise behind Slinky television commercials today.

Slinky sales continued to soar through the years and a number of new products were created and added to the James Industries line of toys. In 1990, a nationwide study by a publication revealed that 89.8 percent of American’s know what a Slinky is and are familiar with the Slinky jingle.

“What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, And makes a slinkity sound?
A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing, Everyone knows it’s Slinky…
It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, for fun it’s a wonderful toy
It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, it’s fun for a girl and a boy
– Slinky Advertising Jingle

Acquired in 1998 by Poof Products, a leading American toy company, Slinky® is securely entrenched as one of the leading staples of the toy market and is among America’s a lot of recognized brand names.
Other milestones consist of:

1. The Discovery and History Channels selected Slinky as one of the top 10 toys of the 20th Century.
2. The U.S. Postal Service recognized Slinky on a 1999 commemorative stamp.
3. Slinky participated on a NASA space mission.
4. Over 300 million Slinkys have actually been offered.