Forget the microwave and the can opener, Silly Putty is by far the greatest invention to come out of New England. Not only is it fun to play with, it also has a variety of practical applications – but more on that later.
Let’s begin with a little history of this predecessor to today’s wildly popular Slime. Although there is some debate as to who really invented Silly Putty, the official patent was awarded to James Wright of New Haven, Connecticut in 1943.
Wright was an engineer from General Electric and had no interest in creating America’s next great toy craze. He was actually attempting to develop a solution to the country’s rationing of rubber during World War II. The Japanese had invaded many of the world’s rubber-producing countries and the US government was in search of an inexpensive rubber-like compound to fill the void.
He came up with a concoction he referred to as “bouncing putty” after discovering that boric acid and silicone oil produced a gooey, bouncy material with several unique properties.
Although everyone agreed it was fun to play with, scientists all over the world failed to find any practical or industrial uses for it. Wright had blown his chance to solve America’s rubber crisis.
I haven’t seen silly putty in years! I used to spend too much time copying the newspapers images! What simple novelty toy was your favorite? Slinky? Pet Rock? . . #ohihadthat #oihtpodcast #childhood #memories #80s #toysrus #timetravel #vintage #classic #90s #toys #popculture #kbtoys #timemachine #tbt #tv #retro #throwback #movies #beingakid #vintagetoys #80stoys #90stoys #podcast #nostalgia #sillyputty #petrock #slinky
As fate would have it, Wright went to a party in 1949 that just so happened to be attended by a local toy store proprietor. He demonstrated his “bouncing putty” for his friends, showing them how it rolled, stretched, bounced and lifted images from a comic book.
The toy shop owner advertised Wright’s invention in a catalog, marketing it as “Silly Putty,” and selling it in colored plastic eggs for $1 each.
The stuff caught on and soon “Silly Putty” had yearly sales in the millions! Today, Wright’s invention is a product of Crayola and comes in multiple colors including metallics and glow-in-the-dark varieties.
The website, Escape Adulthood amassed this comprehensive list of additional uses for New England’s greatest invention – and they are shockingly practical!
Featured Image via Flickr/Nancy Sims