Everyone knows the Slinky. Beloved by children and physics teachers alike, this toy debuted in 1945 and has yet to ever slink away. Odds are good that every kid had at least one Slinky during their lifetime and if they didn’t actually own one, they’ve certainly played with one owned by somebody else. How did a simple metal coil become such a childhood icon? Let’s take a look back at this marvelous toy and find out.
Naval engineer Richard James was testing tension springs for his suspension system when one of the springs ran away from him. Or rather, it fell and then walked away, admittedly strange behavior for an inanimate object. James brought the novelty home to his family and we have his wife to thank for christening the contraption a Slinky. A few modifications later, James unleashed the Slinky on an unsuspecting public – who proceeded to snatch up every last one of them, just in time for Christmas.
The instructions were simple: place the Slinky at the top of the stairs or at an incline, give it a little push and watch it slink down, down, down. Two Slinkies were better than one because you could race them. The simple coil was even eye pleasing in a minimalist sculpture sort of way and if you held a Slinky end in each hand, you could pretend you were playing the accordion. Yep, Slinkies were undeniably fun, but they really hit their apex in the 1960s when the legendary commercial firmly embedded the Slinky jingle into pop culture. And if you would rather not be humming said jingle for the next six hours, you might want to refrain from clicking on any of the links in this post. Too late? Our apologies.
Whether you used a Slinky to demonstrate scientific principals in your childhood, or have half a dozen of them racing down your stairs right now, it’s impossible to deny the magnetic attraction of the Slinky for every new generation. More recent versions of the toy include Slinky Junior, Plastic Slinky (in fun colors!) and Slinky Pets; anything can be Slinkified by attaching it to a spring coil. And yet, the original Slinky has remained unchanged after 50 years on the market, a true and enduring classic.
We welcome your own Slinky stories in our comments section, as we fondly remember the toy that “walks down stairs, alone or in pairs and makes a…” oops, sorry about that.