Richard T. James

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Richard T. James
Born Richard Thompson James
January 1, 1914
Delaware, USA
Died July 13, 1974
Cochabamba, Bolivia
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
Children Thomas James
Christopher James
Peter James
Elizabethe James
Susan Peoples
Rebekah Morris
Mirtha James
Jorge James
Ruth James
Saul James
Sara James
Relatives Nicholas P. James (Grandson)
The Slinky spring toy, invented by Richard James

Richard Thompson James[1] (January 1, 1914 in Delaware, USA – 1974 in Bolivia)[2] was a 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 January 1, 1914. 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.[3]


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 tension springs when he accidentally dropped one. Seeing how the spring kept moving after it hit the ground, the idea for a toy was born. 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 of the toys and convinced the Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to carry the toy for Christmas 1945 displayed on a ramp. These first models were all sold within 90 minutes at a price of $1 each.[4] The toy became a huge success, with around 300 million Slinkys purchased since then. A quarter of a billion Slinkys are still sold every year around the world today.[citation needed]

Around 1960, Richard went to Bolivia to join Wycliffe Bible Translators,[5] and Betty James took over as CEO of James Industries.[6] 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 on July 13th 1974 in Cochabamba, Bolivia[7]. Betty died on November 20, 2008, age 90 of congestive heart failure [4] at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


External links[edit]