Here in Happy Valley, the big thing of course is Penn State University. So when you say “Penn State” most think Joe Paterno and football, ice cream and farmland, probably. Add the Slinky to that list as 1938 Penn State graduate and mechanical engineer, Richard James, inadvertently created one of the world’s most fun and easily recognizable toys!
WPSU, our local PBS affiliate, sends Charlie Gudeman all over the central part of the Commonwealth in his fun “Where’s Charlie?” segments. The Slinky is still made in nearby Hollidaysburg, PA, and is actually the official toy of the whole state!
The inventor’s son, Tom, was the first lucky Slinky tester (as you can see in the picture). Imagine how much kids then loved these totally unique toys! Fittingly, Tom is a sales manager for Slinky to this day.
Also mentioned in the video, the Slinky has a lot of different uses! Two included using them as gutters, and putting them on posts so squirrels won’t raid the bird feeder! The Slinky of course was and is a great tool for the classroom to illustrate different kinds of waves.
So.. why “Slinky?” The term was coined by Tom’s mom and Richard’s wife, Betty. Meaning “stealthy, sleek and sinuous” in Swedish, it was the perfect name!
Personally, I’ve always been a fan of the larger, plastic Slinky. Last Halloween I couldn’t resist getting one in orange and black – my favorite colors!
For the full Slinky story, watch the whole video for yourself, and if you are looking for more toy history, check out the related video about baseball bats!