Betty James (1918 - 2008)

Recipient, In Memoriam, 2009

photo from USA Today

photo from USA Today

Betty James (1918 – 2008) developed the toy known as Slinky with her husband Richard James, who originated the wire-walking toy in 1944. Before it was released a year later, Betty gave the toy its iconic name, and hand wrapped the first 400 that went up for sale at Gimbel’s Department Store in Philadelphia. Betty James ran James Industries alongside her husband for 14 years, until Richard James abruptly left her, their six children, and the company he co-founded. With the business badly in debt, Betty took over the reins of a company that employed over 150 people at a time when female business owners were few. She closed the company’s Philadelphia factory and moved Slinky production to a rented factory just outside her hometown of Hollidaysburg, PA. There the company and her family thrived under Betty’s watchful eye. The Slinky Dog was released in 1952, followed by the Slinky Glasses. In 1962, Betty commissioned the writing of the legendary Slinky jingle.

In 1995 she struck a deal with John Lasseter of Pixar and when the movie ToyStory was released, more than 800,000 of the new Slinky Dogs were sold that year. Betty James was inducted into the Toy Industry Association’s Hall of Fame in 2000. With over 300 million Slinky brand toys sold since 1945, Betty James has touched the lives of well over a billion people through her singularly iconic toy brand. She passed away in 2008 and left behind 6 children, sixteen grandchildren, and a legacy of fun.

Betty James is the first recipient of the In Memoriam Toy & Game Inventor Award.