Slinky toy celebrates 65th birthday

    What do bell-bottoms, road flares, and French perfume have in common? They all originated from men at sea. From WHYY’s Arts and Culture desk, Peter Crimmins reports on a museum collection of common objects that show how nautical necessities contributed to our everyday life.

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    Slinky inventor Richard James, (R), and son Thomas, play with Slinkys on the stairs of the James family home in Philadelphia, PA, in 1945

    What do bellbottoms, road flares, and French perfume have in common? They all originated from men at sea. From WHYY’s Arts and Culture desk, Peter Crimmins reports on a museum collection of common objects that show how nautical necessities contributed to our everyday life.

    It walks down stairs – alone, or in pairs – and makes a Slinky sound…

    [Slinky sound]

    The Slinky was created 65 years ago by a Philadelphia shipbuilder who was working on a WWII battleship and accidentally dropped a tension spring. He turned it into a best-selling toy at Gimbel’s department store and one of the most enduring playthings in the world.

    The first boy to play with a Slinky – Tom James, the son of it’s inventor – says the Slinky is popular because it’s simplicity.

    My grandson – we’re not letting him on the stairs yet, he’s only 2 [child screaming] – looked at it, played with it, stretched it, and looked at me and smiled and stepped on it. (laughs)

    The Slinky is joined by other items at the Independence Seaport Museum, such as the Viewmaster, which was co-opted by the navy as a way to identify enemy planes. The exhibit features objects originating from maritime ingenuity.

    The exhibit opens Friday, March 26 and runs through January 3, 2010 at the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia.

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