Today is the traditional start to the holiday shopping season, and the birthday of a toy that has been bought, given and shared countless times over the years.

Today is the day the Slinky became a phenomenon.


It’s a story that starts with a married couple, Richard and Betty James.

RIchard was a mechanical engineer, working at a shipbuilding company in Pennsylvania.

What he was trying to invent was a system of springs that could help steady some sensitive equipment on ships while at sea.

One of his rejected designs fell on the floor and started wiggling, and he realized it might make a pretty great toy.

It was Betty James who looked through the dictionary and found the word “slinky,” meaning graceful movement, to describe the new toy.

Today in 1945, Richard brought 400 Slinkys to a Gimbels department store in Philadelphia, to show off how they would walk down stairs and inclines.

He sold the entire batch in 90 minutes.

But 15 years or so later, the Slinky had fallen out of fashion; Richard left the company to join a religious movement in South America.

Betty James took over the company and got the Slinky back into fashion, thanks in part to a very catchy TV commercial jingle, asking that musical question, what walks down stairs, alone or in pairs, and makes a slinkety sound?

And she made sure her signature toy stayed affordable. She once said, “So many children can’t have expensive toys, and I feel a real obligation to them.”

And most of those expensive toys can’t even walk down stairs!


Since Thanksgiving weekend is very turkey-centric, I wanted to direct you toward a piece from the blog Granite Geek about how it’s been 50 years since New Hampshire reintroduced wild turkeys through a trade with West Virginia!

The Granite State gave them 23 fishers.

How about some wildlife to be named later?

Slinky (Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia)

West Virginia gave us wild turkeys 50 years ago because we gave them fishers (Granite Geek)

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Slinky photo courtesy Roger McLassus – CC BY-SA 3.0