FEATURED How the Slinky Sprang Into Stores 70 Years Ago

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#AceHistoryNews – Nov.28: It was exactly 70 years ago, on the evening of Nov. 27, 1945, that Richard James demonstrated a new product at Gimbels department store in Philadelphia. It was the Slinky, and it was a hit: He sold out the 400 he had, at $1 each, in 90 minutes. By the end of the 1945 holiday season 22,000 Slinkys had been sold.

It was the pivotal moment in the history of a toy that, as James would later tell a reporter, “the toy people wanted no part of.”

The Slinky was actually invented years earlier, in 1943, when James was a mechanical engineer in a Philadelphia shipyard. As TIME’s list of the All-TIME 100 Greatest Toys later explained, the toy “was the unintended by-product of a new line of sensitive springs that would help keep fragile equipment steady on ships. After knocking one of his newly created springs from a shelf, James watched as it ‘walked’ down from its spot instead of falling to the ground.” After this accidental discovery, James developed the idea throughout the next two years.

The original Slinky was 2.5 in. tall with 75 ft. of high carbon steel wire arranged in 98 coils. James filed a patent for the toy the same month of its first demonstration, and it was approved in January of 1947. Despite initial retailer reluctance, the Slinky soon found its market and James quit his job to devote all his time to the project.

Still, the Slinky was not a one-man operation.

It was Richard James’ wife, Betty James, who in 1944 came up with the name for the toy by looking through the dictionary, choosing it “because she thought it best described the sinuous and graceful movement and the soft sound of the expanding and contracting metal coil her husband, Richard, had fashioned,” per the New York Times. Betty James was also the one responsible for the toy’s jingle, as TIME’s obituary of her noted: “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!’”

After Richard James left his family in 1960 to move to Bolivia to join a religious sect, his wife took over as CEO and re-energized the company, which he had gotten deeply into debt. She continued to helm the company until 1998, when she sold it to Poof Products.

All these decades later, the toy’s popularity has persisted, resulting in sales of more than 300 million Slinkys. It has been inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame and is part of MoMA’s Architecture and Design collection.


Original Article: Time.com

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FEATURED: What The Danish Girl Reminds Us About Transgender People Throughout History

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#AceHistoryNews – Nov.28: The new film The Danish Girl comes at a time of increased visibility and acceptance of transgender people. But the story of Lili Elbe, a transgender woman who was one of the first known recipients of a sex-change operation, is also a public reminder that complicated matters of gender and sex are nothing new.

The early years of TIME magazine—which coincided with the last years of Elbe’s life, before she died in 1931 not long after one of her surgeries—are rife with articles about people who were gender-nonconforming in one way or another. In some cases those stories, with their outdated phrasings, only put into perspective how much things have changed. Other articles, however, are written with a lack of judgment that may surprise modern readers.

In one 1929 example, the magazine reported on a British military captain who was revealed to have been a biological woman who had successfully passed as a man for five years, marrying and raising two children whom she had borne prior to “yielding” to “her tendency to transvestism.” Captain Barker’s biological sex became public when he was processed by a prison for men after being unable to pay a court fine. The discovery was a curiosity to a public “whose vocabularies do not even yet contain the noun transvestite, the verb transvestize, the adjective transvestile, the adverb transvestily,” TIME noted.

A 1936 story about a turn-of-the-century medical text about sex explained the situation in words that such a public could understand: “I often reflect sadly that I have no earthly chance of looking altogether like a woman,” one man who liked to dress in women’s clothes told the author. “Yet my eyes and smile are regarded as truly feminine, and happiness [brought on by the clothing] shows itself and soon improves my appearance.”

It’s a fitting reminder of the limits and complications of our vocabulary. The words that might be used today to express one’s identity weren’t always available, and nor were the social frameworks that might make that expression possible. The term “transgender” would not appear in the pages of TIME until the late 1990s.

Original Article: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/time/

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