Betty James Photo

Betty James

Born: Feb 13, 1918

Death: Nov 20, 2008

Birthplace: Altoona

Nationality: United States

Betty James

Date of Birth : Feb 13, 1918
Date of Death : Nov 20, 2008
Birth Place : Altoona

Betty M. James, was an American businessperson who came up with the name for the Slinky her husband Richard T. James invented. She ran James Industries, the firm that manufactured the toy James starting in 1960, after her husband left the firm and the family. She was born as Betty Mattas on February 13, 1918 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She attended Altoona Area High School and then Pennsylvania State University, leaving when she was married to James. Her husband, an engineer, conceived of the toy in 1943 while working at a shipbuilding company in Philadelphia, after a torsion spring fell off of a table and started flipping end over end. 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. In the face of declining sales, her husband left the family and moved to Bolivia in 1960 to join what she described as a religious cult.


  • Richard T. James
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