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 (okay, maybe that’s a stretch).