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Richard James and his Slinky

James Industries

James Family, Duncansville, PA

In 1943, Richard James was a naval engineer trying to develop a meter designed to monitor horsepower on naval battleships. Richard was working with tension springs when one of the springs fell to the ground. He saw how the spring kept moving after it hit the ground, and an idea for a toy was born.

Richard James told his wife Betty, “I think I can make a toy out of this,” and then spent the next two years figuring out the best steel gauge and coil to use for the toy. Betty James found a name for the new toy after discovering in the dictionary that the word “Slinky” is a Swedish word meaning traespiral—sleek or sinuous.

Slinky debuted at Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia, Pa., during the 1945 Christmas season and then at the 1946 American Toy Fair. Richard, nervous at the first demonstration of his toy, convinced a friend to attend and buy the first Slinky. However, this turned out to be unnecessary, as 400 were sold during the 90-minute Gimbels demonstration.

Richard and Betty James founded James Spring & Wire Company (renamed James Industries) with $500 and began production. Today, all Slinky's are made in Hollidaysburg, Pa., using the original equipment designed and engineered by Richard James. Each one is made from 80 feet of wire, and over a quarter billion Slinkys have been sold worldwide.

(Slinky history from About.com)

  • Center for Family Business
  • Eberly College of Business and Information Technology
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    Indiana, PA 15705
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