The slinky consists of a helical spring that stretches and can bounce up and down. The spring can travel down stairs as it stretches and re-forms itself with the aid of gravity and momentum. Invented by Richard James in 1940’s the slinky was demonstrated at Gimbels department store in 1945.
The store sold its entire inventory of 400 units in ninety minutes. James Industries was formed to manufacture the slinky. It was until 1998 that the James family cashed in by selling the company to Poof Products, Inc. The original price was only $1 and has continued to be modestly priced. The slinky has also been used as a teaching tool, as a radio antenna, and in physics experiments. 60 years later, Slinky has sold 300 million units.
James came up with the idea after a spring that he knocked over stair stepped down various items until it landed and stood up. He experimented with various steel until he got the right type to make the slinky. The name came from his wife, Betty, who found the word, meaning sleek and graceful, in the dictionary.
The first units were 2 Â½” tall, had 98 coils of blue-black Swedish steel. They had a hard time selling the toy to toy stores until Gimbels allowed them to set up a display in their store. In 1946, they introduced the slinky at the American Toy Fair. Shortly after James set up shop and had a machine that could make a Slinky within seconds. He then went on a marketing blitz, appearing on television and using print ads. 100 million Slinkys were sold in the first 2 years.
His wife, Betty James, took over the company after they divorced in 1960. Under Betty the company expanded, even though she insisted on keeping the price affordable so that those that were underprivileged could afford one. At age 90, Betty James died after serving as president of James Industries for 38 years.