Betty James

1 minute read
Joey Green

Her husband invented the iconic spring toy, but Betty James, who died Nov. 20 at 90, gave the Slinky its name and hand wrapped the first ones on her kitchen table. She also developed the renowned and catchy jingle–“What walks downstairs alone or in pairs/ And makes a slinkity sound?/ A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing/ Ev’ryone knows it’s Slinky!”–which launched hundreds of millions of Slinkys down staircases worldwide.

In 1943, while working as a mechanical engineer in Philadelphia, Richard James saw a torsion spring fall off his desk and tumble end over end across the floor. “I think I can make a toy out of this,” he later said. Two years afterward, all 400 of the toy’s first run sold in 90 minutes–launching the Slinky craze.

But in 1960, Richard dramatically abandoned both business and family to join a religious cult in Bolivia, leaving Betty behind with six kids and a floundering business. For the next 38 years, Betty carefully ran the company, finally selling it off when she reached 80. She was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2001.

Green, the author of more than 40 books, wrote The Official Slinky Handbook

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