Slinky – Did You Have One?
What is a Slinky?

What is a Slinky?

Let me ask something first: is there any one of you for whom the name Toy Story doesn’t ring a bell? Let me be honest, I can’t believe there’s any. For older folks, the 20th century ended with Toy Story 1 and the 21st century started with Toy Story 2.

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1960’s Slinky TV Commercial with Theme Song

Though we may all remember the Toy Story series by Woody, Buzz and Jessie, I want to draw your attention to another character: Slinky Dog. Like all dogs, Slinky is a loyal one too but he has a special quality: he’s a Slinky! A Slinky can stretch like a spring but their special design helps them to retain the momentum applied to them. That’s why they can go down the stairs almost as we do: step by step.

What is a Slinky?

Where did the idea of Slinky come from?

Well, being Slinky may not benefit a dog to a great extent, but it serves quite well as a toy. It’s design goes as far back as 40s, when a naval engineer by the name of Richard James invented the very first Slinky. How did he come up with the idea? Well, Mother Nature always toys with us, doesn’t she? James was conducting some experiments using torsion springs that suddenly one of them fell on the ground and kept on bouncing. This scene was inspiring enough to light a spark in his mind that such movement is entertaining to watch. This idea only needed a year to stand out. Christmas 1945 was the first time this wonderful product was introduced as a toy.

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Slinky made James and his wife rich, I mean very rich. Just in the first 2 years of production, they sold over 100 million units at $1 a piece. Don’t you dare to think that 100 million dollars is not that much! Those 100 million “back-then dollars” were worth as much as 6 billion “nowadays dollars.” Don’t know if inflation has any Mother or not, but it’s definitely competing with Mother Nature in toying with us!

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Anyway, in almost no time Slinkys turned into not just an entertaining toy but also an entertaining feature in designing other toys as well. Slinky Dog, Train, Worm and Slinky Eyes we all introduced into the toy market. It was very funny to watch when you pull the head of your train, its rear followed a second later as if a kid was rushing to her mother.

What is a Slinky?
Betty James, former president of James Industries, playing with a toy Slinky that made the family name famous on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2001, in Hollidaysburg, Pa.
More than two hundred and fifty-thousand Slinkys have been sold since the founding of James Industries in 1945.
(AP Photo/The Altoona Mirror, J.D. Cavrich)

How does Slinky work?

Well, to answer this we must roam a bit in the field of physics. Like all springs, Slinkys too conform to the laws developed by Robert Hook, but also their special design makes gravitational effects to affect their movement in a weird way. To understand it, we must talk about the center of mass and the state of equilibrium which … You know what? Forget physics and technicalities. Let’s review some weird facts about Slinkys.

Some Lesser-known Facts about Slinkys

  • It took James over a year to find the right components of a steel wire which, when shaped like Slinky, could walk and go down the stairs.
  • The name Slinky was phrased by James’s wife, Betty, while she was skimming through the pages of a dictionary when she suddenly came up to the word “slink,” which she thought describes the special movement of her husband’s invention quite well.
  • Slinky dog, the character in Toy Story animation series, is created based on a toy with exactly the same appearance and name, first marketed in a 1957 Christmas ad.
  • The one-minute TV ad created for Slinky featuring a theme song is the longest-running jingle in advertising history.
  • Plastic Slinkys marketed first in 70s. The idea was presented to James’ wife (then the CEO) by yet another engineer, Donald James Reum Sr. (and they say, ENGINEERING is boring) Reum was trying to design a spiral hose for watering plants which turned out more like a Slinky and he thought, “Why not?”
  • You know that we have a National Toy Hall of Fame, right? Slinky was inducted in the year 2000. Remember what I said about Toy Story and 21st? Another character from this animation series was also welcomed in the National Toy Hall of Fame in this year: Mr. Potato.
    • Also, August 30 is named National Slinky Day. In 2019 on this day, a historical roadside marker in Clifton Heights was installed to honor the efforts of two pioneers in the history of toy industry.
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And let’s not forget the pure joy of watching a Slinky make its way down stairs. It would bounce and stretch and seem to defy gravity as it gracefully descended. It was such a simple and mesmerizing pleasure that kept us captivated for hours.

Did you have a Slinky growing up? Maybe you still have one tucked away in a drawer or in a box of old toys. Even today, Slinkys are still sold and enjoyed by kids and adults alike. It just goes to show that some toys truly stand the test of time and never lose their charm.

So the next time you see a Slinky, take a moment to appreciate the ingenuity and pure fun that went into creating such a simple yet timeless toy. And if you don’t have one, go ahead and treat yourself to a little slice of childhood nostalgia. After all, who doesn’t love a good Slinky?

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