November 24, 2014

It began in a Philadelphia shipyard in the throes of World War II.
Everyone was busy building submarines, including Richard James, a naval engineer. Among many challenges, he began trying to solve one problem all sailors faced: how to make delicate instruments continue to work in rough seas.
James began tinkering with a piece of metal that he could attach to the instruments as a shock absorber. Then, one fateful day, he dropped that piece of metal.

When it hit the floor, his thoughts turned from subs…to toys. Had he just created something new that kids would love?
James took the metal home to show his wife, Betty. She knew this toy would need a catchy name – so turning to the dictionary, she picked one that fit the new creation perfectly.
When the 1945 holiday shopping season finally rolled around, James and his wife sprang into action. They took their new toy – priced at just one dollar – to Gimbels department store.
The toy was an instant hit. They sold 400 in just 90 minutes and the toy’s popularity spiraled up from there.
What enduring toy started life in a Philadelphia shipyard?
And for more stories to share around the holiday table, check out the story behind other (now) infamous inventions:

Richard James, toys, Culture, history

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