33¢ Slinky Craze Begins
Celebrate the Century – 1940s
Issue Date: February 18, 1999
City: Dobbins AFB, GA
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed, engraved
While engineer Richard James was testing anti-vibration devices for U.S. Navy battleships, one of the torsion springs he was working with fell off his desk and bounced back and forth on the floor. James decided that with the right kind of steel and exact degree of tension, he could make the spring into a children’s toy. He was right. After two years of research, James and his wife Betty put 400 Slinkys on display at Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia in 1945. They all sold within 90 minutes.
To fill the huge number of orders that began pouring in for the toy, James designed special machines. The eight original machines are still used to make Slinkys in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. The steel is flattened, washed, then coiled, producing a Slinky in nine to 11 seconds. The only design change that has occurred during the more than 50-year history of the toy is the crimping of the sharp ends for safety. In 1960, Richard James abandoned the business and his family and moved to South America. His wife became president of James Industries, a position she held for many years.
The over 250 million Slinkys which have been sold contain enough wire to circle the Earth 126 times. Although Mrs. James sold the company in 1998, the toy is still manufactured in Hollidaysburg.