Silly Putty: New England’s Greatest Invention

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.


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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.

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.

Trying out slimes and puttys!!! #slime #cool #sillyputty #putty

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The website, Escape Adulthood amassed this comprehensive list of additional uses for New England’s greatest invention – and they are shockingly practical!

  1. In 1968, Apollo astronauts took it into orbit to secure their tools in zero-gravity.
  2. Physical therapists use it for rehabilitative therapy of hand injuries.
  3. It can also be used therapeutically for stress reduction (and entertain you during boring meetings.)
  4. Amateur CSIs can use it to lift fingerprints.
  5. It can be used as a drumhead resonance damper.
  6. You can wrap it around a pencil and use it as a grip.
  7. Use a few balls of it to practice juggling.
  8. You can use a thin layer of it as a thumb cover for counting money quickly.
  9. Easily locate important items in your home (like flashlights or candles) during a power outage by marking them with the glow-in-the-dark variety.
  10. Wrap it around your soda can and it will keep it cold.
  11. Roll a ball of it on the floor to help find a lost contact lens.
  12. It’s great for removing hair and lint from your clothes.
  13. It can be molded into replacement dice for your favorite board game.
  14. You can use it to open a twist-top bottle without hurting your hands.
  15. It can be fashioned into a worm and used as a surprisingly effective fishing lure.
  16. Stick it under your dog’s bowl so it doesn’t slide all over the floor.
  17. It can also be sculpted into a boat for your pet hamster.


Featured Image via Flickr/Nancy Sims


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