Also known as
National Slinky Day
annually on August 30th
One of the most recognizable toys for decades, the Slinky, walks its way down stairs with a little extra swagger today, because it's Slinky Day! In 1943, Richard James, a naval engineer, was in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard working on a project that used springs to hold items up on moving ships, when he accidentally knocked down a spring and watched it "walk" and then coil itself up neatly on the floor. It was an idea-inspiring moment, and along with his wife, Betty, a plan was hatched to create a new toy. Betty combed through a dictionary and came up with the name "Slinky," and in 1945, with a 500 dollar loan, the couple created James Industries. At first, the Slinkys weren't selling, but when a demonstration table was set up in Philadelphia's Gimbels Department Store during the 1945 holiday shopping season, the James's sold 400 of them for a dollar each in 90 minutes—and people wanted more.
The Slinky was introduced at the American Toy Fair the following year, and the year after that it was granted a patent. Soon it was being marketed all over the world. But there was no straight line to success. In 1960, when the company was close to bankruptcy, Richard left Betty and their six children in Pennsylvania and joined a religious cult in Bolivia. Betty soldiered on, brought the company back from the brink of ruin, and made it flourish. In 1963, she brought the Slinky to a toy show in New York City, where it became a huge hit. During the decade, she moved the factory to Hollidaysburg, from its original location in Clifton Heights.
Betty James died in 2008 at the age of 90. By then, hundreds of millions of Slinkys had been sold. Not only have Slinkys kept children and adults entertained, but they've also been used by NASA for experiments, such as to show the effects of gravity on Space Shuttle missions; are used as mobile radio antennas by amateur radio operators, after first being used as such during the Vietnam War; are used by teachers to simulate oscillation in waves, and are used by physical therapists to improve hand-eye coordination. Slinkys were put on a US postage stamp in 1999 and inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2019, a historical marker was put up near the spot where the first Slinky factory was located in Clifton Heights. Today the slinky is celebrated all around the world with Slinky Day!
How to Observe Slinky Day
You could celebrate the Slinky in some of the following ways:
- Play with a Slinky. Walk it down the stairs or household items like tables, chairs, and bookshelves. Stretch it out or do some tricks with it.
- Get yourself a new Slinky.
- Visit the National Toy Hall of Fame.
- Stop at the Slinky historical marker in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania.
- Watch some old Slinky commercials.
- Protect your bird feeder from squirrels with a Slinky. Although, this doesn't always work.
- Watch Toy Story, paying special attention to Slinky Dog. You could get yourself a Slinky Do, too!