Silly Putty

Original Silly Putty Package

Silly Putty is among the most famous and unique toys that exists in the world today, despite the fact that it was developed during World War 2 Baby Boomer era.

Silly Putty Comic Book Ad, 1963
Silly Putty Comic Book Ad, 1963

Silly Putty didn’t start as a toy

Most people are not aware that Silly Putty was anything but silly at its inception. It was designed to be an alternative to Rubber in a time when rubber was growing harder and harder to get.

Silly Putty is a toy based on silicone polymers that have unusual physical properties. Silly putty can bounce but when it is given a sharp, hard blow, it can also break cleaning. It can also flow much like any other liquid. It bounces, but it breaks when given a sharp blow, and it can also flow like a liquid.

The name Silly Putty is a trademark of Crayola LLC which owns the Silly Putty sales.

During World War II, Japan had invaded rubber-producing countries. Rubber was imperative for things like tires, aircraft parts and gas masks. In the United States, due to this invasion, all of the rubber products were being rationed. The US people were told to make rubber things work until the end of the war. They were also asked to donate any spare tires, boots and rubber coats. Meanwhile the US government continued to research ways to end the rubber shortage.

Silly putty was a result of the research. The credit for the invention is in dispute even to this day. in most cases it is given to Earl Warrick of the then newly formed Dow Corning but also many credit James Wright, a Scottish-born inventor who was working at the time for GE in Connecticut.

Throughout his life, Warrick insisted that he and his colleague, Rob Roy McGregor, received the patent for Silly Putty before Wright did but Crayola’s history of Silly Putty states that Wright first invented it in 1943.

Silly Putty fails and bounces back

In 1949, toy store owner Ruth Fallgatter came across the putty. She contacted marketing consultant Peter C. L. Hodgson to speak about it and the two people decided to market it. It sold relatively well but Fallgatter didn’t really pursue it and so it was dropped.

Hodgson was in debt and decided he would market it and bought a batch of it to sell using plastic eggs to package it. Sales were relatively poor but an article in New Yorker mentioned it whereupon it sold more than 250 thousand eggs for 1 USD.

Along came the Korean war when rubber was not a problem but getting silicone was nearly impossible. It was put on ration due to war needs and Hodgson was nearly run out of business. It took a year for the ration to be ended and the production of Silly Putty could begin again.

In the beginning Silly Putty was targeted to adults but by 1955, the majority of customers were aged six to twelve. In 1957, Hodgson decided that the Silly Putty could use a boost. Using the relatively new medium of television he created the first televised commercial for Silly Putty, which aired during the Howdy Doody Show.

In 1961, Silly Putty went worldwide, becoming a hit in the Soviet Union and Europe.

In 1968, it was taken into lunar orbit by the Apollo 8 astronauts.

Early Silly Putty Commercial, 1957

Silly Putty – Plymouth Commercial, 1996

 

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