Richard T. James
Richard T. James
Richard Thompson James
March 27, 1918
|Died||July 13, 1974 (aged 56)|
|Education||Pennsylvania State University Westtown School|
|Occupation||Engineer and inventor|
|Known for||Inventing the Slinky toy|
|Spouse(s)||Betty James, m.1943 d.2008|
Petronila Lazarte James
Richard Thompson James (March 27, 1918 in Philadelphia, US – July 13, 1974 in Cochabamba, Bolivia) was an American naval engineer, best known for inventing the Slinky spring toy with his wife Betty James in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania in 1943.
James was born on March 27, 1918. In 1935, he graduated from Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school located in Chester County, Pennsylvania. In 1939, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University.
In 1943 James was trying to develop a means for suspending sensitive shipboard instruments aboard naval vessels, even in rough seas, and was working with torsion springs when he accidentally dropped one. Seeing how the spring kept moving after it hit the ground, the idea for a toy was born. He bought a coil-winding machine and started the James Spring & Wire Company to mass-produce the Slinky. The following year, Betty came up with the name Slinky after leafing through the dictionary and thinking that the word described the motion of the spring. The couple made 400 Slinkys and convinced Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to carry the toy for Christmas 1945. Originally displayed in a static position none of the toys sold but when Richard James stepped up to demonstrate the toy in action on a ramp the entire first production run sold out within 90 minutes at a price of $1 each. The toy became a huge success, particularly after James left the operation and Betty took over the helm. In all, a total of 300 million Slinkys have been sold, with about a quarter million still sold world-wide every year.
Around 1960, Richard went to Bolivia to join Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Betty James took over as CEO of James Industries. She moved the company from Philadelphia to its current Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania location and began an active advertising campaign, complete with the famous Slinky jingle. She was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.
Richard James died of a heart attack in 1974 in Bolivia. Betty died on November 20, 2008, age 90 of congestive heart failure at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- MIT: Richard James
- Penn State: What’s the connection between a Slinky and Penn State?
- Hevesi, Dennis. "Betty James, Who Named the Slinky Toy, Is Dead at 90", The New York Times, November 24, 2008. Accessed November 25, 2008.
- "'Slinky' brainchild". Delaware County Daily Times. Retrieved 2014-01-25.
- Timeless Toys