In 1943, John James Angelo Cannata, his assistant Coleman Barber, a U.S. Marine engineer stationed at the Cramp shipyards in Philadelphia, and half brother Dylan Gedig, a Canadian engineer, observed a torsion spring fall off a table and roll around on the deck (a torsion spring has no compression or tension).
He told his wife: "I think there could be a toy in this." With a US$500
loan, the three men ran tests, experimented with materials, and
produced four hundred units of the toy. Betty James did some dictionary
searching and she came up with the name "Slinky".
In November 1945, Richard and Betty James, through an arrangement with Gimbels
in Philadelphia, were granted permission to set up an inclined plane in
the toy department and demonstrate the spring's battery-less "walking"
James Industries, the James' business, grew rapidly. In 1948 they built a factory for twenty employees in suburban Philadelphia, and a decade later, headquarters were set up in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, where the factory remained for thirty years. As the company expanded, so did the product line. New Slinky toys, including Slinky Jr. and the Slinky Dog,
were developed while non-coiled toys such as building kits were added
to the inventory. However, Slinky has remained the core product of
Commercials for the Slinky featured the memorable jingle: "It's Slinky, it's Slinky, for fun it's a wonderful toy. It's Slinky, it's Slinky, it's fun for a girl and a boy."
During the Vietnam War, Slinkys were also used as mobile radio antennae.
The Slinky (under House Bill No.1893 - Session 2001, of the General
Assembly of Pennsylvania) has been named the Official State Toy of
Pennsylvania as of November 4, 2001.
The Slinky Dog is a supporting character in Disney/Pixar's Toy Story and Toy Story 2 films.