Thursday, March 26, 2015

Saving The Slinky...!

I think that nearly everyone knows about the invention of the "Slinky". Although the inspiration was an accident, the original Slinky quickly became a big success.

Sometimes, though, folks just don't handle success very well. This bit of history I borrowed from KnowledgeNuts shows that fame and fortune don't guarantee happiness. There is probably a useful message in there somewhere!

How One Woman Rescued The Slinky From A Cult-ish Ending
By Heather Ramsey on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Although Betty James came up with the toy’s name in 1944, her husband, Richard James, is credited with inventing the Slinky, a toy spring that walked down stairs and delighted children. This simple toy became an incredible success, but Richard James didn’t handle it well. He gave away large sums of money to questionable religious charities, then abandoned his wife and six children to join a cult in Bolivia. With the business in shambles and her family nearing bankruptcy, Betty James revived the company and built an empire, all around an inexpensive toy spring that ultimately got her inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame.



Although Betty James came up with the toy’s name in 1944, her husband, Richard James, is credited with inventing the Slinky, a toy spring that walked down stairs and delighted children. Richard was an engineer in the Navy when he watched a spring fall off a shelf and bounce around doing a version of the Slinky walk we all know so well. That gave him the idea to make a walking toy from a spring. It took him two years to get it right, but the Slinky finally debuted around Christmas in 1945 at a Philadelphia department store.

After demonstrating the new toy to the crowd, the entire stock of 400 Slinky toys sold out in an hour for $1 each. Although Richard and Betty James founded their company, James Industries, with a $500 loan, their simple toy soon became an incredible success. A little over 10 years later, they owned a 12-acre property in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, headed a thriving company, and had six children.

But Richard James couldn’t handle the success or the fame he derived from Slinky. He gave away large sums of money to questionable religious charities, then abandoned his wife and six children to join a cult in Bolivia in 1960.

“The children then were ages 2, 4, 6, 8, 16 and 18,” Betty James recalled in an interview with the New York Times. “So, no, I wasn’t interested in South America. When we first had Slinky, we got a lot of publicity, made a lot of money, and he just didn’t handle it well. He thought he was big time. And these religious people always had their hands out. He had given so much away that I was almost bankrupt. I sold the factory and decided to move from the Philadelphia area back to Altoona, where I grew up, with the business.”

Mrs. James took out a mortgage on her house, traveled to a toy show in New York, and watched orders surge. She also kicked off a television advertising campaign with a memorable jingle that became known nationwide. Ultimately, Betty James revived the company and built an empire, all around an inexpensive toy spring that saw her inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. In 2001, Slinky also became the official state toy of Pennsylvania.

Of course, there were offshoot toys like the Slinky Dog, which also contributed to the company’s success. Slinky has appeared in the movie, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, and a revamped Slinky Dog appeared in the Toy Story series. Through it all, Mrs. James was determined to keep the basic Slinky affordable, so that parents could buy them for their kids without breaking the bank.

Mrs. James retired when James Industries was acquired by Poof Products in 1998. Sadly, she passed away in 2008.

Ya know, as far back as I can remember we always seemed to have at least one Slinky around the house somewhere. It was one toy that seemed to facinate children (and adults) of all ages! It still shows up at Christmas from time to time!

Better have our coffee inside this morning. The weather guy says rain is on the way.

11 comments:

Mamahen said...

Loved our slinky when I wasca kid...one of the few toys each had, instead of just one for us to share.....Rain here also, so the kitchen it is :))

HermitJim said...

Hey Mamahen...
I think that is one reason that they have always been so popular...they were affordable.

Seems as though the company wanted to keep it that way!

Thanks for stopping by this morning!

Rob said...

As soon as I saw the words "Memorable jingle" I started in on the one I remembered!

linda m said...

I loved our Slinky when I was a child and naturally when I became a Mom I bought one for my son. He loved his and wore it out. Rain here also so coffee inside will be appreciated.

thecottagebythecranelakethree said...

What an interesting history! I had one too of course and it is amazing how such a simple toy could be so fun :-) I never really got tird of it!

Have a great day!
Christer.

Chickenmom said...

Such a simple toy, but a lot of fun. My brother & I would have races with them on the back stairs.
Getting ready to rain here again, too!

Sixbears said...

Somehow playing with a slinky calms the mind, like some sort of meditation device. Kinda cool.

JO said...

I of course had one too must have driven everyone nuts we lived on the third floor so of course I had to make it go all the way done several times a day. got lots of exercise running up and down those stairs.

Hermit's Baby Sis said...

Bubba -
Young Henry has a Slinky at our house, although it's rather stretched and kinked, it's still fun. Remember how they used to get twisted upon themselves? How about the minis or the colored ones? Might be the resolution to "It's yours that's twisted, not mine", ya' think?
Good post!
Big hugs ~

Dizzy-Dick said...

I bet everybody from my generation has had or has played with a slinky.

Jim said...

I'm with Dizzy, I think every one over 60 has played with one. I guess the Hula Hoop was almost as popular in the late 50's and 60's.