History of Classic Toys, The Slinky

Posted by GoGo Goodie on January 15, 2012.

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So the story goes, back in 1943 Richard James, a naval engineer was trying to devise a way to keep ship instruments from shifting on battleships.  He was experimenting with using springs when one of the springs was knocked over and proceeded to "walk down" a pile of books.  Intrigued by what the spring did, he worked for two years perfecting a spring that would walk down stairs or slopes.  James' wife, Betty, named the new toy invention Slinky after seeing the word in the dictionary (meaning sleek and graceful).


Early Slink Ads

Early Slinky Competitor

With a $500 loan, the couple had 400 Slinkys made through a local machine shop. Originally wrapped in yellow paper and priced at $1 each, the James' demonstrated and sold all 400 within 90 minutes at Gimbels department store in New York in 1945.  Then it was on to introduce the Slinky to a broader audience at the 1946 American Toy Fair. Within the next two years, James Industries went on to sell 100 million Slinkys, which is equivalent to 1 Billion dollars in today's market.  

1960's Packaging


In a surprising turn of events in 1960 Richard James left the company and his wife to go to Bolivia and become an evangelical missionary.  Betty took over managing the company and it continued to thrive and expand.  Over the years she had insisted on keeping the price of the Slinky affordable so all children could buy it.  In 1998, James Industries was bought by Poof Products Inc.  In November of 2008 Betty passed away at the age of 90. Richard had already passed away in 1974.

Thanks for stopping by GoGo Goodie for today's toy history lesson!


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