Slinky was invented and developed by naval mechanical engineer Richard James
in 1943. While stationed at the William Cramp and Sons shipyards in Philadelphia,
James was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships traveling in rough seas, when he accidentally knocked one of the
springs from a shelf, and watched as it "stepped" in a series of splits, first to a
stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it re-coiled itself upright.
James and his wife thought the springs would make great toys and with a
$500 loan, the couple formed James Industries (originally James Spring &
Wire Company),and had 400 Slinky unites made by a local machine shop,
hand wrapped each in yellow paper, and priced them at $1 a piece and
sold the entire inventory at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia
within ninety minutes. The toy was introduced at the American Toy
Fair in 1946.
Slinky inventor Richard James and his son Thomas play
with the toys on the stairs in the family home (1945).