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For Immediate Release
Stacy Gabrielle , (610) 253-6272 x4297

Silly Putty History

 


1940      In the midst of World War II, the Japanese continue to invade rubber producing countries in the Far East, cutting off supply to the United States.  This begins to hamper war production efforts, especially for truck tires and boots.  As a result, the government’s War Production Board asks American industry to attempt to develop a synthetic rubber compound.


 


1943      James Wright, a Scottish engineer working for General Electric’s New Haven, Conn., laboratory, combines boric acid and silicone oil in a test tube.  The compound becomes “polymerized.”  Wright removes the gooey substance from the test tube and in his exuberance tosses some on the floor.  Bouncing putty is born.


 


1945   Determined to find a use for the bouncing putty, General Electric sends samples to engineers worldwide.  No practical use is discovered.


 


1949      Bouncing putty continues to travel around industrial and scientific circles, eventually capturing the attention of Ruth Fallgatter, owner of the Block Shop toy store, New Haven.  Fallgatter contracts marketing consultant Peter Hodgson to produce her catalog and discusses bouncing putty with Hodgson.


 


·         The pair decides to put a written description of bouncing putty on a page with adult gifts.  It’s offered in a clear, compact case for $2.


 


·         Bouncing putty outsells every item in the catalog, except one – a box of hexagonal Crayola crayons which sells for 50 cents.  Despite its success, Fallgatter declines further interest in marketing it.


 


·         Hodgson, however, sees its potential.


 


1950         Already $12,000 in debt, Hodgson borrows $147 for a batch of the gooey substance and packs one-ounce wads of it in plastic eggs selling for $1.  After studying 15 possible names for the product, Hodgson chooses the one that he says sums up the product perfectly.  Silly Putty is born!


  


In March, it’s introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York.  Nearly all toy marketers advise Hodgson to give up his idea to market Silly Putty.  However, Hodgson’s persistence gets Silly Putty into a few large outlets including Neiman-Marcus and the Doubleday book shops.  Hodgson creates the Arnold Clark company and moves his production operation into a converted barn in North Branford, Conn.  There he begins shipping the eggs in surplus egg boxes supplied by the Connecticut Cooperative Poultry Association.


 


In August, a New Yorker magazine writer discovers Silly Putty at a Doubleday book store and writes a story on it in the Talk of the Town Section.  Following publication of the story, Hodgson receives orders for more than a quarter million eggs of Silly Putty from across the country in three days.


 


1951      Government restrictions on raw materials, including silicone, needed to aid the Korean War effort almost put Hodgson out of business.  He is left with 1,500 pounds of Silly Putty which he slowly parcels out to fill a backlog of orders.


 


1952  The government lifts its restraints on the use of silicone and Silly Putty production resumes.


 


1955      Five years after its introduction, the Silly Putty market inverts!  Initially, its market as a novelty item was 80% adult.  By 1955, Silly Putty is a child plaything, most popular with kids ages 6-12.


 


1956      Hodgson creates one of the first television advertising campaigns targeted at children to support Silly Putty sales.  Silly Putty commercials soon begin airing on the Howdy Doody Show and Captain Kangaroo.


 


1961      At the U.S. Plastics Expo in Soviet Moscow, hundreds flock to see a Silly Putty display.  Soon, Silly Putty is being recommended to tourists visiting the Soviet Union as the ideal gift to bring to Soviet locals.  Not long after, Silly Putty is introduced to Europe, where it is a hit in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Italy.


 


1968      Silly Putty goes to the moon with Apollo 8 astronauts.


 


1976      Peter Hodgson, marketer of Silly Putty, dies.


 


1977      Binney & Smith, maker of Crayola products, acquires the rights to Silly Putty.


 


1987      A resurgence of interest in Silly Putty pushes sales to more than 2 million eggs annually.


  


1990      Silly Putty celebrates its 40th anniversary at the International Toy Fair in New York City.


 


1995      Changeable Silly Putty that changes colors with the warmth of your hands makes its debut.


 


2000      As we enter the new millennium, Metallic Gold Silly Putty is introduced to mark the 50th Golden Anniversary of the silly stuff.  A vintage blue and yellow Silly Putty egg from the early 1950s goes on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in the “Material World” exhibit devoted to significant inventions and materials that have shaped American culture.


 


2001      Silly Putty is inducted into The National Toy Hall of Fame, where it proudly joins its next of kin—Crayola crayons—a permanent resident since 1998.  Located at A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem, Ore., the museum showcases toys that have had a positive influence on a child’s learning and creativity.

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