Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Off Topic: The Slinky

I know this blog is dedicated to the absolutely perfect man in my life (the guy with the big ears -- one of which is apparently longer than the other according to our chiropractor, who thinks he's pretty funny). There are, however, one or two other bloggers out there who might appreciate this little diversion. I know it's going to make me smile.

I want to tell the story of the Slinky. I've double-checked the facts below from Wikepedia (inherently reliable), but I originally learned this story in a small local publication, which I read in a coffee shop and now can't remember the name of (how's that for accuracy in blogging). Stay with me ladies, I have a point.

The Basic Background of the Slinky.

The toy was first invented by Richard James, who was a naval engineer. Slinky was created in the early 1940s by accident, when Richard discovered this spring he was working on for some engineering task would "walk" across his desk when it was tipped over. He created 400 units and tested the toy's appeal amongst a small group of kids in a department store in Philadelphia in November 1945. The simplicity and fun of the toy was an instant hit, and allegedly sold out in about an hour and a half. Richard then got to work creating a machine that could mass produce the Slinky. Richard and his wife Betty formed James Industries in Philadelphia to manufacture and mass produce the Slinky.

In 1960, Richard's wife Betty became president of James Industries, and, in 1964, moved the operation to Hollidaysburg, PA. In 1998, Betty James sold the company to Poof Products, Inc.

The Slinky was originally priced at $1, and has remained modestly priced. The Slinky has also led to other Slinky products, including the Slinky dog, the Slinky worm, and plastic slinkies in various colors (I had one in blue and green). The Slinky has also gone on to bigger and better uses than simply walking down the stairs: it has been used in the classroom as a teaching tool, as a wartime radio antenna, and by NASA in physics experiments. In 2002, Slinky became the official state toy of Pennsylvania, and, in 2003, the Slinky was named in the Toy Industry Association's "Century of Toys List." In its first 60 years, the Slinky has sold 300 million units. Quite a success story.

Two Key Points.

First. A key tid-bit missing about why Betty James became president in 1960. In 1960, Richard James left the company, his wife, and his children to join a religious sect in Bolivia. Way to go Dick.

Second. Did Betty James throw her arms in the air and give up when Dick deserted her? Heck no! Instead, Betty James managed the company, dealt with its creditors and dug the company out of the hole Dick and put it in by making smart decisions like moving the company to Hollidaysburg, PA, where operating costs would be more affordable.

In fact, the company thrived and expanded under Betty's leadership. She was the mastermind behind the Slinky Dog, the Slinky Worm, and the plastic Slinky. In 1995, Betty explained the toy's success to the Associated Press by saying, "It's the simplicity of it." Betty also felt it was important to keep the Slinky affordable. She told The New York Times: “So many children can't have expensive toys, and I feel a real obligation to them. I'm appalled when I go Christmas shopping and $60 to $80 for a toy is nothing." Even now, Slinkys only cost about $4 to $5, and Slinky Dogs about $20.

Betty James died of heart failure in November 2008 at the age of 90. Betty served as president of James Industries from 1960 to 1998. Though James Industries was sold to Poof Products and later merged to form a new entity, thanks to Betty's creative and shrewd leadership, over 300 million Slinkys were sold, and the original Slinky remains a bestseller.

The Moral of My Story.

Some men are just like Slinkys: Not really good for anything, but they sure would be fun to push down the stairs. Take a lesson from Betty ladies. We are survivors.


  1. Fun post - great story - love your conclusion!

  2. Loves it! Glad I'm not the only one who can't get the Men in my life to be nearly as meaningful as my horses


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