Slinky

$6.99

The Slinky, or "Lazy Spring," is a toy consisting of a helical spring that stretches and can bounce up and down. It can perform a number of tricks, including traveling down a flight of steps end-over-end as it stretches, and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and its own momentum.

In 1943, Richard James, a naval mechanical engineer stationed at the William Cramp and Sons shipyards in Philadelphia, was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas. James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring "stepped" in a series of banana splits, to a stack of books, to a tabletop, to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright. James' wife Betty later recalled, "He came home and said, 'I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension; I could make it walk.'"

James experimented with different types of steel wire over the next year, and finally found a spring that would walk. Betty was dubious at first, but changed her mind after the toy was fine-tuned and neighborhood children expressed an excited interest in it. She dubbed the toy Slinky (meaning "sleek and graceful"), after finding the word in a dictionary, and deciding that the word aptly described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing.

With a US$500 loan, the couple formed James Industries (originally James Spring & Wire Company), had 400 Slinky units made by a local machine shop, handwrapped each in yellow paper, and priced them at $1 a piece. Each was 2 1/2" tall, and included 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel. The Jameses had difficulty selling Slinky to toy stores but, in November 1945, they were granted permission to set up an inclined plane in the toy section of Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to demonstrate the toy. Slinky was a hit, and the first 400 units were sold within ninety minutes. In 1946, Slinky was introduced at the American Toy Fair.

Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold since 1945, and the original Slinky is still a bestseller.



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